Many links and tutorials on copper plating use a solution that contains copper sulphate / sulphuric acid and hydrocloric acid.

In Sweden, Sulphuric acid is almost impossible to get a hold off. You need a license to buy it, and it costs 100 USD to get one...

What does the H2SO4 do in the electrolyte? Is there an alternative to the acid?

I want to plate PCB copper clads.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Try plating without an acid, and you'll see why it was important. I bet copper will deposit anyway, but will be all spongy and soft. $\endgroup$ – Ivan Neretin Aug 25 '17 at 10:38
  • $\begingroup$ Usually you can buy 36% $\ce{H2SO4}$ where you would get lead acid batteries. Isn't it the case in Sweden? As a last resort, buy the lead acid battery and pour the acid out of the cells (be careful though). $\endgroup$ – andselisk Aug 25 '17 at 17:37

Copper acetate can be used, at least for a thin layer, and it can be made with chemicals found at home.

To get a bright copper coat, extra acid (vinegar, 5% acetic acid, in this case) or gelatin can be added.

That said, if the plating is for through-hole continuity, it might be simpler and cheaper to use a solderable conductive ink.

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