In this science experiment we use white vinegar and pennies to coat a steel nail with copper. So
dig out that old pile of pennies you have been saving and make yourself a copper coated nail.
This science experiment show the bonding characteristics of atoms of different materials.
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- Clear glass bowl
- 1 teaspoon salt.
- 25 old pennies
- 2 steel nails
- Paper towls
Process To Make Copper Coated / Plated Nails
1) Measure out 1/4 cup white vinegar and put into the glass bowl.
2) Add 1 teaspoon salt. Stir salt until it dissolves in the vinegar.
3) Take a penny and submerge it into the vinegar solution 1/2 way for 10 seconds.
4) Remove penny. What do you notice? What do you think happened?
5) Put all the pennies into the bowl and let them sit in the white vinegar solution for 5-10
minutes (take notice of how the pennies look before putting them in).
6) Take pennies out and put them on a paper towel after step 5.
7) Put one steel nail into the bowl and let it sit all the way on the bottom fully submerged.
Take another steel nail and lean it up against the side of the bowl so it's 1/2 way in the
vinegar solution and 1/2 exposed to air. Let the nails sit for at least 15-20 minutes.
8) After 15-20 minutes take the nails out and give them a look. What do you notice? If nothing
has happened put the nails back into the vinegar solution until you see they are coated,
covered, and plated in copper.
The Science of Copper Coating Steel Nails
The copper from the pennies interacts with acid from the white vinegar to form a new
compound (vinegar copper oxide). When you put the nail into the vinegar solution, the new
compound plates the nail with a thin layer of copper that cannot be rubbed off. After you have
a copper coated nail that might look good as necklace with a string.
When we first put the pennies into the vinegar, there was a reaction which caused the acid (in
the vinegar) to remove the copper oxide from pennies. That copper oxide was now in the
vinegar solution. When we put the steel pennies into the vinegar copper oxide solution that
allowed the copper oxide something to attach itself too and bind with (the nails). In essence,
the copper atoms attached to the steel atoms and made the nail copper coated or plated. It is
hard to rub off the copper because chemical bonds like the one we made between steel and
copper are very strong.
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