Plating

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Plating is a surface covering in which a metal is deposited on a conductive surface. Plating has been done for hundreds of years; it is also critical for modern technology. Plating is used to decorate objects, for corrosion inhibition, to improve solderability, to harden, to improve wearability, to reduce friction, to improve paint adhesion, to alter conductivity, to improve IR reflectivity, for radiation shielding, and for other purposes. Jewelry typically uses plating to give a silver or gold finish.

Contents

Thin-film deposition has plated objects as small as an atom, [1] therefore plating finds uses in nanotechnology.

There are several plating methods, and many variations. In one method, a solid surface is covered with a metal sheet, and then heat and pressure are applied to fuse them (a version of this is Sheffield plate). Other plating techniques include electroplating, vapor deposition under vacuum and sputter deposition. Recently, plating often refers to using liquids. Metallizing refers to coating metal on non-metallic objects.

Electroplating

In electroplating, an ionic metal is supplied with electrons to form a non-ionic coating on a substrate. A common system involves a chemical solution with the ionic form of the metal, an anode (positively charged) which may consist of the metal being plated (a soluble anode) or an insoluble anode (usually carbon, platinum, titanium, lead, or steel), and finally, a cathode (negatively charged) where electrons are supplied to produce a film of non-ionic metal.

Electroless plating

Electroless plating, also known as chemical or auto-catalytic plating, is a non-galvanic plating method that involves several simultaneous reactions in an aqueous solution, which occur without the use of external electrical power. The reaction is accomplished when hydrogen is released by a reducing agent, normally sodium hypophosphite (Note: the hydrogen leaves as a hydride ion) or thiourea, and oxidized, thus producing a negative charge on the surface of the part. The most common electroless plating method is electroless nickel plating, although silver, gold and copper layers can also be applied in this manner, as in the technique of angel gilding.

Specific cases

Gold plating

Gold plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of gold on the surface of glass or metal, most often copper or silver.

Gold plating is often used in electronics, to provide a corrosion-resistant electrically conductive layer on copper, typically in electrical connectors and printed circuit boards. With direct gold-on-copper plating, the copper atoms have the tendency to diffuse through the gold layer, causing tarnishing of its surface and formation of an oxide/sulfide layer. Therefore, a layer of a suitable barrier metal, usually nickel, has to be deposited on the copper substrate, forming a copper-nickel-gold sandwich.

Metals and glass may also be coated with gold for ornamental purposes, using a number of different processes usually referred to as gilding .

Sapphires, plastics, and carbon fiber are some other materials that are able to be plated using advance plating techniques. The substrates that can be used are almost limitless. [2]

Silver plating

A silver-plated alto saxophone KeilwerthAltoSax.JPG
A silver-plated alto saxophone

Silver plating has been used since the 18th century to provide cheaper versions of household items that would otherwise be made of solid silver, including cutlery, vessels of various kinds, and candlesticks. In the UK the assay offices, and silver dealers and collectors, use the term "silver plate" for items made from solid silver, derived long before silver plating was invented from the Spanish word for silver "plata", seizures of silver from Spanish ships carrying silver from America being a large source of silver at the time. This can cause confusion when talking about silver items; plate or plated. In the UK it is illegal to describe silver-plated items as "silver". It is not illegal to describe silver-plated items as "silver plate", although this is ungrammatical, and should also be avoided to prevent confusion.

The earliest form of silver plating was Sheffield Plate, where thin sheets of silver are fused to a layer or core of base metal, but in the 19th century new methods of production (including electroplating) were introduced. Britannia metal is an alloy of tin, antimony and copper developed as a base metal for plating with silver.

Another method that can be used to apply a thin layer of silver to objects such as glass, is to place Tollens' reagent in a glass, add glucose/dextrose, and shake the bottle to promote the reaction.

AgNO3 + KOH → AgOH + KNO3
AgOH + 2 NH3 → [Ag(NH3)2]+ + [OH] (Note: see Tollens' reagent)
[Ag(NH3)2]+ + [OH] + aldehyde (usually glucose/dextrose) → Ag + 2 NH3 + H2O

For applications in electronics, silver is sometimes used for plating copper, as its electrical resistance is lower (see Resistivity of various materials); more so at higher frequencies due to the skin effect. Variable capacitors are considered of the highest quality when they have silver-plated plates. Similarly, silver-plated, or even solid silver cables, are prized in audiophile applications; however some experts consider that in practice the plating is often poorly implemented, making the result inferior to similarly priced copper cables. [3]

Care should be used for parts exposed to high humidity environments because in such environments, when the silver layer is porous or contains cracks, the underlying copper undergoes rapid galvanic corrosion, flaking off the plating and exposing the copper itself; a process known as red plague. Silver plated copper maintained in a moisture-free environment will not undergo this type of corrosion.

Copper plating

Copper plating is the process of electrolytically forming a layer of copper on the surface of an item.

Rhodium plating

Rhodium plating is occasionally used on white gold, silver or copper and its alloys. A barrier layer of nickel is usually deposited on silver first, though in this case it is not to prevent migration of silver through rhodium, but to prevent contamination of the rhodium bath with silver and copper, which slightly dissolve in the sulfuric acid usually present in the bath composition. [4]

Chrome plating

Chrome plating is a finishing treatment using the electrolytic deposition of chromium. The most common form of chrome plating is the thin, decorative bright chrome, which is typically a 10-μm layer over an underlying nickel plate. When plating on iron or steel, an underlying plating of copper allows the nickel to adhere. The pores (tiny holes) in the nickel and chromium layers work to alleviate stress caused by thermal expansion mismatch but also hurt the corrosion resistance of the coating. Corrosion resistance relies on what is called the passivation layer, which is determined by the chemical composition and processing, and is damaged by cracks and pores. In a special case, micropores can help distribute the electrochemical potential that accelerates galvanic corrosion between the layers of nickel and chromium. Depending on the application, coatings of different thicknesses will require different balances of the aforementioned properties. Thin, bright chrome imparts a mirror-like finish to items such as metal furniture frames and automotive trim. Thicker deposits, up to 1000 μm, are called hard chrome and are used in industrial equipment to reduce friction and wear.

The traditional solution used for industrial hard chrome plating is made up of about 250 g/L of CrO3 and about 2.5 g/L of SO4. In solution, the chrome exists as chromic acid, known as hexavalent chromium. A high current is used, in part to stabilize a thin layer of chromium(+2) at the surface of the plated work. Acid chrome has poor throwing power, fine details or holes are further away and receive less current resulting in poor plating.

Zinc plating

Zinc coatings prevent oxidation of the protected metal by forming a barrier and by acting as a sacrificial anode if this barrier is damaged. Zinc oxide is a fine white dust that (in contrast to iron oxide) does not cause a breakdown of the substrate's surface integrity as it is formed. Indeed, the zinc oxide, if undisturbed, can act as a barrier to further oxidation, in a way similar to the protection afforded to aluminum and stainless steels by their oxide layers. The majority of hardware parts are zinc-plated, rather than cadmium-plated. [5]

Zinc-nickel plating

Zinc-nickel plating is one of the best corrosion resistant finishes available offering over 5 times the protection of conventional zinc plating and up to 1,500 hours of neutral salt spray test performance. This plating is a combination of a high-nickel zinc-nickel alloy (10–15% nickel) and some variation of chromate. The most common mixed chromates include hexavalent iridescent, trivalent or black trivalent chromate. Used to protect steel, cast iron, brass, copper, and other materials, this acidic plating is an environmentally safe option. [6] Hexavalent chromate has been classified as a human carcinogen by the EPA and OSHA. [7] [8]

Tin plating

The tin-plating process is used extensively to protect both ferrous and nonferrous surfaces. Tin is a useful metal for the food processing industry since it is non-toxic, ductile and corrosion resistant. The excellent ductility of tin allows a tin coated base metal sheet to be formed into a variety of shapes without damage to the surface tin layer. It provides sacrificial protection for copper, nickel and other non-ferrous metals, but not for steel.

Tin is also widely used in the electronics industry because of its ability to protect the base metal from oxidation thus preserving its solderability. In electronic applications, 3% to 7% lead may be added to improve solderability and to prevent the growth of metallic "whiskers" in compression stressed deposits, which would otherwise cause electrical shorting. However, RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) regulations enacted beginning in 2006 require that no lead be added intentionally and that the maximum percentage not exceed 1%. Some exemptions have been issued to RoHS requirements in critical electronics applications due to failures which are known to have occurred as a result of tin whisker formation.

Alloy plating

In some cases, it is desirable to co-deposit two or more metals resulting in an electroplated alloy deposit. Depending on the alloy system, an electroplated alloy may be solid solution strengthened or precipitation hardened by heat treatment to improve the plating's physical and chemical properties. Nickel-Cobalt is a common electroplated alloy.

Composite plating

Metal matrix composite plating can be manufactured when a substrate is plated in a bath containing a suspension of ceramic particles. Careful selection of the size and composition of the particles can fine-tune the deposit for wear resistance, high temperature performance, or mechanical strength. Tungsten carbide, silicon carbide, chromium carbide, and aluminum oxide (alumina) are commonly used in composite electroplating.

Cadmium plating

Cadmium plating is under scrutiny because of the environmental toxicity of the cadmium metal. Cadmium plating is widely used in some applications in the aerospace, military, and aviation fields. However, it is being phased out due to its toxicity. [9]

Cadmium plating (or cad. plating) offers a long list of technical advantages such as excellent corrosion resistance even at relatively low thickness and in salt atmospheres, softness and malleability, freedom from sticky and/or bulky corrosion products, galvanic compatibility with aluminum, freedom from stick-slip thus allowing reliable torquing of plated threads, can be dyed to many colors and clear, has good lubricity and solderability, and works well either as a final finish or as a paint base. [5] [10]

If environmental concerns matter, in most aspects cadmium plating can be directly replaced with gold plating as it shares most of the material properties, but gold is more expensive and cannot serve as a paint base.

Nickel plating

The chemical reaction for nickel plating is:[ citation needed ]

At cathode: Ni → Ni2+ + 2 e

At anode: H2PO2 + H2O → H2PO3 + 2 H+

Compared to cadmium plating, nickel plating offers a shinier and harder finish, but lower corrosion resistance, lubricity, and malleability, resulting in a tendency to crack or flake if the piece is further processed. [5]

Electroless nickel plating

Electroless nickel plating, also known as enickel and NiP, offers many advantages: uniform layer thickness over most complicated surfaces, direct plating of ferrous metals (steel), superior wear and corrosion resistance compared to electroplated nickel or chrome. Much of the chrome plating done in aerospace industry can be replaced with electroless nickel plating, again environmental costs, costs of hexavalent chromium waste disposal and notorious tendency of uneven current distribution favor electroless nickel plating. [11]

Electroless nickel plating is self-catalyzing process, the resultant nickel layer is NiP compound, with 7–11% phosphorus content. Properties of the resultant layer hardness and wear resistance are greatly altered with bath composition and deposition temperature, which should be regulated with 1 °C precision, typically at 91 °C.

During bath circulation, any particles in it will become also nickel-plated; this effect is used to advantage in processes which deposit plating with particles like silicon carbide (SiC) or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). While superior compared to many other plating processes, it is expensive because the process is complex. Moreover, the process is lengthy even for thin layers. When only corrosion resistance or surface treatment is of concern, very strict bath composition and temperature control is not required and the process is used for plating many tons in one bath at once.

Electroless nickel plating layers are known to provide extreme surface adhesion when plated properly. Electroless nickel plating is non-magnetic and amorphous. Electroless nickel plating layers are not easily solderable, nor do they seize with other metals or another electroless nickel-plated workpiece under pressure. This effect benefits electroless nickel-plated screws made out of malleable materials like titanium. Electrical resistance is higher compared to pure metal plating.

See also

Related Research Articles

Chromium Chemical element, symbol Cr and atomic number 24

Chromium is a chemical element with the symbol Cr and atomic number 24. It is the first element in group 6. It is a steely-grey, lustrous, hard, and brittle transition metal. Chromium is the main additive in stainless steel, to which it adds anti-corrosive properties. Chromium is also highly valued as a metal that is able to be highly polished while resisting tarnishing. Polished chromium reflects almost 70% of the visible spectrum, and almost 90% of infrared light. The name of the element is derived from the Greek word χρῶμα, chrōma, meaning color, because many chromium compounds are intensely colored.

Solder Alloy used to join metal pieces

Solder is a fusible metal alloy used to create a permanent bond between metal workpieces. Solder is melted in order to adhere to and connect the pieces after cooling, which requires that an alloy suitable for use as solder have a lower melting point than the pieces being joined. The solder should also be resistant to oxidative and corrosive effects that would degrade the joint over time. Solder used in making electrical connections also needs to have favorable electrical characteristics.

Electroplating Creation of protective or decorative metallic coating on other metal with electric current

Electroplating is a general name for processes that produce a metal coating on a solid substrate through the reduction of cations of that metal by means of a direct electric current. The part to be coated acts as the cathode of an electrolytic cell; the electrolyte is a solution of a salt of the metal to be coated; and the anode is usually either a block of that metal, or of some inert conductive material. The current is provided by an external power supply.

Corrosion Gradual destruction of materials by chemical reaction with its environment

Corrosion is a natural process that converts a refined metal into a more chemically stable form such as oxide, hydroxide, carbonate or sulfide. It is the gradual destruction of materials by chemical and/or electrochemical reaction with their environment. Corrosion engineering is the field dedicated to controlling and preventing corrosion.

Brazing High-temperature soldering; metal-joining technique by high-temperature molten metal filling

Brazing is a metal-joining process in which two or more metal items are joined together by melting and flowing a filler metal into the joint, with the filler metal having a lower melting point than the adjoining metal.

Chrome plating

Chrome plating is a technique of electroplating a thin layer of chromium onto a metal object. The product of chrome plating is called chrome. The chromed layer can be decorative, provide corrosion resistance, ease cleaning procedures, or increase surface hardness. Sometimes, a less expensive imitator of chrome may be used for aesthetic purposes.

Anodizing Electrolytic passivation process used to increase the thickness of the natural oxide layer on the surface of metal parts

Anodizing is an electrolytic passivation process used to increase the thickness of the natural oxide layer on the surface of metal parts.

Copper plating

Copper plating is the process of plating a layer of copper electrolytically on the surface of an item. It takes place in an electrolytic cell where electrolysis which uses direct electric current to dissolve a copper rod and transport the copper ions to the item. Into a container of water are placed a copper rod, and the item. The water contains an ionic solution which allows a direct electric current to flow from the copper rod to the item. The copper rod is the anode and the item is the cathode. This current flow causes the copper to ionize, become oxidized which means each atom becomes positively charged by losing an electron. As the copper ions dissolve into the water, they form a coordination complex with salts already present. The copper then physically flows to the item, where it is reduced to the metallic state by gaining electrons. This forms a thin, solid, metallic copper film on the surface of the item.

Gold plating

Gold plating is a method of depositing a thin layer of gold onto the surface of another metal, most often copper or silver, by chemical or electrochemical plating. This article covers plating methods used in the modern electronics industry; for more traditional methods, often used for much larger objects, see gilding.

Metallizing

Metallizing is the general name for the technique of coating metal on the surface of objects. Metallic coatings may be decorative, protective or functional.

Chromium trioxide Chemical compound

Chromium trioxide (also known as chromium(VI) oxide or chromic anhydride) is an inorganic compound with the formula CrO3. It is the acidic anhydride of chromic acid, and is sometimes marketed under the same name. This compound is a dark-purple solid under anhydrous conditions, bright orange when wet and which dissolves in water concomitant with hydrolysis. Millions of kilograms are produced annually, mainly for electroplating. Chromium trioxide is a powerful oxidiser and a carcinogen.

Metal fume fever, also known as brass founders' ague, brass shakes, zinc shakes, galvie flu, metal dust fever, welding shivers, or Monday morning fever, is an illness primarily caused by exposure to chemicals such as zinc oxide (ZnO), aluminium oxide (Al2O3), or magnesium oxide (MgO) which are produced as byproducts in the fumes that result when certain metals are heated. Other common sources are fuming silver, gold, platinum, chromium (from stainless steel), nickel, arsenic, manganese, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, lead, selenium, and zinc.

Electroless plating

Electroless plating, also known as chemical plating or autocatalytic plating, is a class of industrial chemical processes that create metal coatings on various materials by autocatalytic chemical reduction of metal cations in a liquid bath. This class is contrasted with electroplating processes, such as galvanization, where the reduction is achieved by an externally generated electric current.

Chromate conversion coating

Chromate conversion coating or alodine coating is a type of conversion coating used to passivate steel, aluminium, zinc, cadmium, copper, silver, titanium, magnesium, and tin alloys. The coating serves as a corrosion inhibitor, as a primer to improve the adherence of paints and adhesives, as a decorative finish, or to preserve electrical conductivity. It also provides some resistance to abrasion and light chemical attack on soft metals.

Electroless nickel-phosphorus plating

Electroless nickel-phosphorus plating is a chemical process that deposits an even layer of nickel-phosphorus alloy on the surface of a solid substrate, like metal or plastic. The process involves dipping the substrate in a water solution containing nickel salt and a phosphorus-containing reducing agent, usually a hypophosphite salt. It is the most common version of electroless nickel plating and is often referred by that name. A similar process uses a borohydride reducing agent, yielding a nickel-boron coating instead.

Electrogalvanizing is a process in which a layer of zinc is bonded to steel in order to protect against corrosion. The process involves electroplating, running a current of electricity through a saline/zinc solution with a zinc anode and steel conductor. Such Zinc electroplating or Zinc alloy electroplating maintains a dominant position among other electroplating process options, based upon electroplated tonnage per annum. According to the International Zinc Association, more than 5 million tons are used yearly for both hot dip galvanizing and electroplating. The plating of zinc was developed at the beginning of the 20th century. At that time, the electrolyte was cyanide based. A significant innovation occurred in the 1960s, with the introduction of the first acid chloride based electrolyte. The 1980s saw a return to alkaline electrolytes, only this time, without the use of cyanide. The most commonly used electrogalvanized cold rolled steel is SECC steel. Compared to hot dip galvanizing, electroplated zinc offers these significant advantages:

Electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG or ENi/IAu), also known as immersion gold (Au), chemical Ni/Au or soft gold, is a metal plating process used in the manufacture of printed circuit boards (PCBs), to avoid oxidation and improve the solderability of copper contacts and plated through-holes. It consists of an electroless nickel plating, covered with a thin layer of gold, which protects the nickel from oxidation. The gold is typically applied by quick immersion in a solution containing gold salts. Some of the nickel is oxidized to Ni2+ while the gold is reduced to metallic state. A variant of this process adds a thin layer of electroless palladium over the nickel, a process known by the acronym ENEPIG.

Nickel electroplating is a technique of electroplating a thin layer of nickel onto a metal object. The nickel layer can be decorative, provide corrosion resistance, wear resistance, or used to build up worn or undersized parts for salvage purposes.

Materials for use in vacuum

Materials for use in vacuum are materials that show very low rates of outgassing in vacuum and, where applicable, are tolerant to bake-out temperatures. The requirements grow increasingly stringent with the desired degree of vacuum to be achieved in the vacuum chamber. The materials can produce gas by several mechanisms. Molecules of gases and water can be adsorbed on the material surface. Materials may sublimate in vacuum. Or the gases can be released from porous materials or from cracks and crevices. Traces of lubricants, residues from machining, can be present on the surfaces. A specific risk is outgassing of solvents absorbed in plastics after cleaning.

References

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