Metal plating is a process that has been used for centuries, yet continues to evolve. It involves covering the surface of an object with a layer of metal. Plating has multiple uses, from simple decoration to producing tools and components that make our lives easier. There are different ways to perform metal plating, which you can learn about here.
Electroplating is a common plating process that relies on the charges of materials to complete the covering. A chemical solution containing an ionic metal, a positively charged anode, and a negatively charged cathode are used. An electrical current is sent through the solution to make the ionic metal attracted to the object that needs to be coated, and the metal rests on the surface of the object.
Plating can also be done without the aid of electricity, in a process called electroless plating. In this version, reactions occur because of a reducing agent that releases hydrogen, causing the surface of an object to gain a negative charge that attracts the metal. The results of the process are similar to electroplating, but chemical deposition takes the place of electricity. Plating without electricity results in a metal layer that is more even across the surface, even in areas that aren’t entirely smooth.
Gold plating is often taken for granted, but it is a metal plating process that we probably wouldn’t be able to live without today. On copper, silver, and sometimes glass, a thin layer of gold is added to the surface. When used in electronic devices, the thin gold layer acts as a way to prevent corrosion on copper, such as with printed circuit boards and connectors. In addition, with copper, a nickel layer is introduced to prevent tarnishing through diffusion of the copper atoms. When used with glass, it is generally for decorative purposes, such as when creating ornaments.
Alternatively, a thin layer of silver can be added to objects to produce silver plating. Silver plating dates back as far as the 18th century, with the earliest known version called Sheffield plating, which was done accidentally. Silver has a low electrical resistance, which makes it excellent for use in electronics, especially when plating copper. Silver plating also acts as a way to produce cheaper versions of solid silver objects, such as cutlery.
Hopefully, you have become more knowledgeable on the subject of metal plating. One of these methods may become useful to you, so don’t forget them.