Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Electroplating Plastics
Name: Juven H.
Status: student
Age: 13
Location: N/A 
Country: N/A
Date: 11/15/2004


Question:
Why will electroplating not work with plastic? How can plastic be plated?


Replies:
Juven,

The reason that plastic parts can not be easily electroplated is because plastic is a nonconductor of electricity. Plastics can be metallized though, through numerous plating processes. I will just outline some of these process that are used in metallizing plastic parts for the automotive industry. For starters, the parts must be perfectly clean from any oil, grease or any plastic injection mold compounds. If the parts are not cleaned properly, the metal will peel off over time from the plated plastic part. Then you process the plastic part in a very aggressive chromic/sulfuric acid bath to etch the plastic surface (make small pits on the surface). Then you place the plastic part in a palladium chloride bath to place metal particles in the previous pits made on the plastic surface. After this palladium metal deposition, one can electroplate the part with copper metal and then chrome plate or many other various metals such as nickel or gold. I know that this is a very shortened process list, but for your use, it should suffice. I hope that this helps!

Sincerely,

Bob Trach


By definition, electroplating requires that an electric current flow between the part being plated and the chemical solution. If the part is non-conductive then an electric current cannot flow.

How can one plate nonconductive materials like plastic? The answer is "electroless" plating. These chemical baths deposit metal coatings but do not' need electricity. After an electroless coating is produced, a normal electroplating bath can be used to make the coating even thicker.

Bob Erck



Click here to return to the Engineering Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory