Importance of Electroplating& Uses
Updated: Feb 15, 2022
History of electroplating
the art and science of depositing neutral metal coatings from metal ions in solutions goes back over two centuries, slowly evolving from a laboratory research tool to a common industrial process. The possibility of electroplating began in 1800 when Allessandro Volta invented the Voltaic Pile – more commonly known as the electric battery. Using this Pile, Luigi Brugnatelli then invented and first documented electroplating in 1805 when he performed electro-deposition of gold on silver medals. Brugnatelli’s work was rebuffed by the dictator Napoleon Bonaparte, which caused him to suppress any further publication of his work.
Forty years later – John Wright of Birmingham developed further the conductive solution for gold and silver electroplating. He discovered that potassium cyanide was a suitable and more efficient solution. He immersed items into a tank of silver held in this solution, through which an electric current was passed.
By 1840, this discovery was adapted and refined by Henry and George Elkington of Birmingham, England for gold and silver plating. Collaborating with their partner John Wright and using formulae developed by the latter for potassium cyanide plating baths, the Elkingtons were able to have the first viable patents for gold and silver electroplating issued on their name. From Great Britain the electroplating process for gold and silver quickly spread throughout the rest of Europe and later to the United States. By the 1850's electroplating methods of bright nickel, brass, tin, and zinc were commercialized and were applied for engineering and specific commercial purposes. In time, the industrial age and financial capital had expanded from Great Britain to the rest of the world.
Importance & Uses Of Electroplating
It is a matter of fact that yes - some metals are way more expensive, rare, and valuable than the others, like silver and gold being the most obvious examples. Through the process of electroplating, an extremely thin layer of gold or silver can be used to coat a less valuable metal so that the final product has all the beauty and lustre at a minimal cost. Electroplating, being one of the widely implemented applications today, is extensively used for designing jewellery and other ornaments. Moreover, thin layers of chromium are also used on automobiles and appliances to give them an attractive and shiny appearance.
2. Commercial Applications
Electroplating is also used on car parts to give a smooth appearance and texture with the help of a thin layer of chromium. As the car owner's request, electroplating can also be done on various other appliances as well.
3. Prevention of Corrosion
As some metals are more prone to natural processes such as corrosion (conversion of a metal into a chemically stabilized form like oxide, hydroxide, or sulfide), electroplating protects their surface by covering them with a thin layer of metal, which shall be corrosion resistant. Copper, chromium, and nickel, which are the non-corrosive metals, are spread over corrosive metals like iron and steel to prevent corrosion.
4. Conduction of Electricity
Metals like silver and gold are indeed excellent conductors of electricity; however, they are prohibitively expensive. Through the techniques of electroplating, little amounts of these highly conductive and precious metals can be incorporated into the integrated circuits and electrical components like computers, cell phones, amongst many others, to help in the conduction of electricity.
5. Reduces Friction
Electroplating can reduce the built-up friction of some materials such as the electrical connectors to a great extent by introducing a certain kind of metal plating on them. For instance - nickel plating improves performance and reduces friction and wear and tear.
6. Protection from Radiation
Electroplating also helps to protect the materials from various other natural phenomena, including radiation and abrasion, simply by imparting the desired features or characteristics to the surface of the metals, which in general, lack them.