Electroplating Nickel Onto Copper

Learning Intentions

  • To learn how to electroplate nickel onto copper pennies


  1. Put on safety goggles and closed-toe shoes.
  2. Create a solution of nickel acetate
    1. Put 200 mL of 5% acetic acid (vinegar) in a 250 mL beaker
    2. Attach 2 nickel electrodes to an electrode holder, and insert the electrodes into the vinegar
    3. Attach the electrodes to a power supply. Since both electrodes are nickel, it does not matter which one is the anode and which is the cathode
    4. Turn on the power supply. At first, it will generate about 0.5 amps of current with 50 V DC. As the solution heats up and more ions dissolve, the current will increase. If the current rises above 1.0 amps, reduce the voltage to keep the current below 1.0 amps.
    5. Turn off the power once the solution is a deep blue/green colour.
    6. Filter the solution using a coffee filter, to remove any solids.
    7. After creating the solution, nickel from the sacrificial anode will have dissolved into the solution. There will be a red precipitate (possibly iron oxide, caused by impurities in the nickel anode) on the cathode.
  3. Clean the pennies
    1. Soak overnight in 5% acetic acid (vinegar).
    2. Rinse with distilled water.
    3. Scrub with soap and a brush.
    4. Rinse with distilled water.
    5. Rinse in acetone.
    6. Rinse with distilled water.
    7. TODO: Use electrocleaning?
  4. Electroplate the pennies
    1. Put the sacrificial nickel anode from the first step into your green/blue solution of nickel acetate.
    2. Using an alligator clip, attach the positive side of the power supply to the nickel anode.
    3. Attach an alligator clip to the negative side of the power supply. Clip the other end to the penny, being sure to leave at least half the penny exposed.
    4. Set the power supply to 4.5 volts.
    5. Dip the exposed half of the penny in the nickel acetate solution. Do not put the alligator clip in the solution, as it will cause an unwanted chemical reaction.
    6. After one half of the penny is plated, remove the penny and rinse it in a beaker of water.
    7. Turn the penny around, and electroplate the other side.
    8. Once the penny is completely electroplated, remove it from the solution and rinse it in water.
    9. Scrub the penny lightly with the rough side of a sponge to polish the nickel plating.