Electroplating

Definition - What does Electroplating mean?

Electroplating is the process of coating a metal with a thin layer of another metal by electrolysis to improve the metal's corrosion resistance.

The metals most commonly used in plating are:

  • Copper
  • Nickel
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Chrome
  • Zinc
  • Tin

Electroplating is also known as electrodeposition.

Corrosionpedia explains Electroplating

The main purpose of electroplating is to improve:

  • Appearance
  • Protection against corrosion
  • Special surface properties
  • Engineering or mechanical properties

In the process of electroplating the anode is connected to the positive terminal, and the cathode (metal to be plated) is connected to the negative terminal. Both are immersed in a solution which contains an electrolyte and connected to an external supply of direct current. When DC power is applied, the anode is oxidized—its metal atoms dissolving in the electrolyte solution. These dissolved metal ions are reduced at the cathode and form a coating. The current through the circuit is adjusted so that the rate at which the anode is dissolved equals the rate at which the cathode is plated.

Different metals can be coated using the electroplating process. Formulating the right electrolyte is important for the quality of plating.

Electrolytes used in this process include:

  • Acids
  • Bases
  • Metal salts
  • Molten salts

Properties of the electrolyte that must be considered when making a selection are:

  • Corrosivity
  • Resistance
  • Brightness or reflectivity
  • Hardness
  • Mechanical strength
  • Ductility
  • Wear resistance

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