You can’t simply change common chemical elements into valuable and rare ones – but electroplating gets you close. In this process, electricity is used to coat a mundane metal with a thin layer of another. Essentially – it makes cheap metals look expensive.
What It Is
Electroplating involves passing an electric current through a solution called an electrolyte. This happens by dipping electrodes into the electrolyte and connecting them into a circuit with a power supply. When electricity flows through the circuit, the electrolyte splits up, and the metal atoms it contains are deposited in a small layer on top of the electrodes. This is how something becomes electroplated. The process of electrochemistry was invented by Italian chemist Luigi V Brugnatelli in 1805.
All kinds of metals can be plated like this, including gold, copper, silver, zinc, tin, nickel, chromium, platinum, cadmium and lead. It helps improve appearance, increase protection, make special surface properties and create engineering or mechanical properties.
How It Is Used
Metals like gold and silver are often plated for decoration. It would be expensive and bulky to have a full-weight item hanging around your neck. Electroplating makes these heavy, expensive, precious substances more widely-available. When it comes to zinc or tin, electroplating is used to give them a protective outer layer since they aren’t exactly pleasant to look at.
Sometimes, automobile pieces like a Fender are made with steel plated with chromium to make them rust-resistant and shiny. Chromium plating is also used on bath taps, car parts, wheel trims, kitchen gas burners and more because it is corrosion resistant – extending the life of whatever it coats. Gold plating is often used for jewelry and electronics to prevent tarnishing and conduct electricity.
Silver plating is popularly used to make common household items cheaper. These may include cutlery, candlesticks and many vessels of various kinds. Even bronze and brass can be plated, by arranging for electrolytes containing salts of the metals to be present in the alloy. As one can see, electroplating is both decorative and protective. It is widely used in industries such as airplanes, automobiles, jewelry, electronics, and toys.
PEP General Metal Finishing is a leading plating company, offering electropolishing services, barrel platting, vibratory plating, rack plating and more. They specialize in precious metal plating which includes gold, silver, palladium, platinum, electrolytic nickel, tin, tin-lead, copper and more. To check them out, please visit www.pepgenmetal.com.