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Electroplating

Electroplating

An important use for electrolytic cells is in electroplating. Electroplating results in a thin coating of one metal on top of a conducting surface. Reasons for electroplating include making the object more corrosion resistant, strengthening the surface, producing a more attractive finish, or for purifying metal. The metals commonly used in electroplating include cadmium, chromium, copper, gold, nickel, silver, and tin. Common consumer products include silver-plated or gold-plated tableware, chrome-plated automobile parts, and jewelry. We can get an idea of how this works by investigating how silver-plated tableware is produced (see the figure below).

Electroplating

The spoon, which is made of an inexpensive metal, is connected to the negative terminal of the voltage source and acts as the cathode. The anode is a silver electrode. Both electrodes are immersed in a silver nitrate solution. When a steady current is passed through the solution, the net result is that silver metal is removed from the anode and deposited on the cathode.

In the figure, the anode consists of a silver electrode, shown on the left. The cathode is located on the right and is the spoon, which is made from inexpensive metal. Both electrodes are immersed in a solution of silver nitrate. As the potential is increased, current flows. Silver metal is lost at the anode as it goes into solution.

\(\text{anode: Ag}(s)\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}⟶\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}{\text{Ag}}^{\text{+}}(aq)+{\text{e}}^{\text{−}}\)

The mass of the cathode increases as silver ions from the solution are deposited onto the spoon

\({\text{cathode: Ag}}^{\text{+}}(aq)+{\text{e}}^{\text{−}}\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}⟶\phantom{\rule{0.2em}{0ex}}\text{Ag}(s)\)

The net result is the transfer of silver metal from the anode to the cathode. The quality of the object is usually determined by the thickness of the deposited silver and the rate of deposition.

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