NEW ZEALAND TARANAKI

Copper Plating

Mikaela Fenton

This project makes an ever-lasting ornament or piece of jewellery using leaves or flowers...


Abstract

I wanted to make some jewellery. It would be better to use nature’s beauty and turn it to metal rather than trying to shape metal to look like nature’s beauty.

I thought this would be pretty and special. I eventually found a way to make non-metal things from nature conduct electricity so they could then be copper plated.

This is a good way to make jewellery because nature has many beautiful objects.

 

Materials

  • Plant leaves or flowers
  • Copper sulphate Solution
  • Electricity (3 Volts)
  • Copper metal
  • Alligator clip x2
  • Wires
  • Beaker
  • Electroplating tank - an old electrophoresis tank
  • Acid wash solution
  • Mikaelas Secret Plating solution (made at home by trying different ways to get the copper sulphate solution to plate onto the leaf. The solution we invented is also safe for children and works great!)

Method

Chose a small piece of plant. Paint or dip the whole of the plant with Mikaelas Secret Plating solution. Leave it for 15 minute days to dry.

Make the positive electrode out of a copper strip and screw into the tank. Put the copper sulphate solution in the plating tank, and insert the plastic tray.

Connect the wires of the lid to the power box. Get a piece of copper wire and sand off the vanish coating around it then wrap it around the plants stem.

Wrap the other end of the copper wire to the metal rack that is connected to the negative electrode.

Put the safety lid on, turn on the power and leave it for a few hours.

Turn off the power. Remove the plant. Rinse it with normal water.

If you want to copper plate something that is already metal, you need to wash it in the base solution first, then the acid solution to cancel out the base. This removes the grease and your fingerprints so the copper will stick properly.

Electroplating chamber from an old electrophoresis tank

 

View from above of tank with safety lid removed

 

Results and Discussion

I tried this two years ago and I had a problem with making non-metals conduct properly. I had to spray the plants with Zinc paint because the electricity wouldn’t go through it if it were not a metal.

The Zinc spray paint didn’t work properly so this year I tried using a mixture which I call Mikaelas Secret Plating solution. This works well.

But if you want the jewellery to look like pure gold, then you need to make the copper thick, and polish it up. This would be my next step to work on.

Metal plating can stop things from rusting as well as making things pretty and shiny. For instance, a kettle is plated in chrome. This can stop water from getting in to the iron metal and making it rust.

Electricity can help separate the atoms from a mixture. We did have a mixture of copper, sulphur and oxygen atoms and the electricity makes the copper separate into one group of pure copper.

My tank is way better than a beaker because it is wider and is was designed to separate mixtures of D.N.A. Dad was about to throw it out when he thought I could use it for copper plating. We also thought it would be good because it has a safety lid so you can’t get an electric shock.

Non-metallic bjects being copper plated

Copper plated leaf

An example of a leaf plated with copper

Copper plated leaf made into jewellery

A finished piece of jewellery...the necklace is on display in a heart-shaped case...

Conclusion:

I tried using a mixture which I call the Mikaelas Secret Plating solution and it worked!

I’ve got a new plating tank that is much more efficient and safer and it is from an old electrophoresis tank.

My favourite part of this experiment was when I got to paint the Barbie shoe with the Mikaelas Secret Plating solution.

My next challenge is to try and copper plate leaf skeletons. I think they will make beautiful jewellery. This is a good way and a fast way to make jewellery out of nature.

A Dalek stands guard over Mikaela's jewellery

Mikaela with one of her fiends...


FIND OUT MORE:-

  1. Who was Sir Humphry Davy?
  2. What was Michael Faraday's connection with Sir Humphry Davy?
  3. The interactive pages...identify these pieces of lab equipment
  4. The interactive pages...weird metals and gases hide in this Periodic Table
 

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