If you’re a fan of science and technology, you’ve probably heard of electroplating. But for those who haven’t, this short article will walk you through it.
Basically, electroplating is a process that uses a mix of the three major groups of science – natural, formal, and applied sciences. Specifically, it involves the sub branches chemistry, physics, chemical and electrical engineering, and metallurgy.
So, what’s the fuss over electroplating? It’s commonly used for its decorative and protective abilities. You see your jewelry with gold and silver plating? That’s one everyday example of electroplating. Another is that iron bridge you frequently pass on your way to work; that bridge is coated with zinc to protect it from corrosion. Other uses of electroplating are for increasing electrical conductivity, and improving previous technologies (industrial application).
This is the process of how it came to be what it is now:
Electrochemistry, the science responsible for electroplating, was developed by Luigi Brugnatelli back in 1805. He used Volta’s voltaic pile to facilitate the first incident of electrodeposition. Despite this breakthrough, the French Academy of Sciences didn’t support Brugnatelli due to Napoleon Bonaparte’s orders to keep Brugnatelli’s research and inventions away from the public.
Brugnatelli, however, wrote about electroplating in the Belgian Journal of Physics and Chemistry. It wasn’t until 1839 that the general industries were able to use this innovation, and, by which time, scientists in Russia and Britain have already created a similar method separately.
Deposition was introduced in Russia by Boris Jacobi who developed electrotyping and galvanoplastic sculptures, along with rediscovering galvanoplastics. This became a trend in then Russia. In England, John Wright of Birmingham discovered the use of potassium cyanide as an electrolyte for gold and silver plating. George and Henry Elkington, Wright’s associates, bought the rights to the processes, and were the first people to patent electroplating back in 1840.
How Electroplating Works
Electroplating, in simple terms, is the process of placing a metal coating onto a material. This is done by placing the material and a bar of metal in a solution with metal ions. An electric current is then applied, which causes the positive ion (cation) to go to the metal, and the negative ion (anion) to the object to be plated. The metal bar, which then dissolves in the solution, coats the object in the process with a durable thin coating that serves for either the decoration or protection of the original material, or both.