Almost every other thing surrounding us consists of metals; the amount of metal in some things is less whereas, in some it is high. The computers and mobile phones which we use daily are manufactured with different types of metals ranging from expensive to the cheapest ones. Picturing the world without metals is a bit difficult. Some metals are considered far more attractive and valuable than others; gold and silver are the oldest examples of the same. As such metals are very expensive, one might have to think twice before buying them. Electroplating is a procedure whereby a thin layer of gold and silver is put on a cheaper metal, and the final product is available at an affordable cost.
Electroplating is a process in which a coating of metal is added to a conductor with the help of an electric current. The process which is used in electroplating is electrodeposition.
Let’s see the daily life examples of electroplating
Although gold and silver are one of the most expensive metals and a person has to plan his budget accordingly to buy gold jewelry. Therefore, electroplating is an alternative as well as a cost-effective method to purchase jewelry. A thin layer of precious metal is often coated on jewelry to make it more lustrous and attractive to potential buyers.
2. Protective Barriers
The long life of steel and iron is only due to electroplating. They are plated with other metals like nickel or chromium which prevent the base metal from getting corroded. Hence, electroplating acts as a protective barrier for the metals. It covers the surface of the metal and protects them from different atmospheric conditions. Plated parts last longer and can tolerate extreme conditions.
3. Prevent Friction
Nickle plating is done on a metal surface to reduce friction in materials like electric conductors. It reduces the chances of early wear and tear of the metal.
4. Conduction of Electricity
Gold and silver are good conductors of electricity, but they are a bit costly. So, metals are plated with silver and gold to increase their conductivity and decrease cost. Cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices use electroplating techniques in their circuits. Interestingly, the medals meant to be awarded in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games are manufactured from metals extracted from mobile phones and other recycled waste items.
5. Prevent Tarnishing
Many household items including silverware retain their elegance and hold their value for some time. Electroplating protects metals against premature tarnishing and also decreases the likelihood of scratching.
6. Increasing Thickness
Electroplating is used to improve the overall quality and longevity of a substrate. For instance, palladium plating which is done over other metals increases the thickness as well as durability of the metal. It is also used to make brittle metal hard and strong.
7. Protection from Radiation
Electroplating is also used to plate desired characteristics on the metals which lack those characteristics. This helps in protecting the metals from radiation. Gold’s reflective properties make it ideal for use in components such as semiconductor parts including reflector rings and reflector arrays. Gold reflects UV radiation below 0.35 µm. It also reflects infrared radiations with wavelengths above 0.7 µm, which helps to keep electronics cool. These reflective properties have made gold plating an integral part of spacecraft and satellite design.
8. Commercial applications
Electroplating is used in various commercial appliances. Nickle is used in decorative items, cars, and machinery parts. Chromium is also used in the rims of wheels and zinc is also plated on various machinery parts.
Every metal item we purchase, for example, utensils, is very smooth and lustrous. Copper plating is done to provide extra smoothness to the metal surface. It provides enhanced surface finishing to the metal.
10. Aerospace and Aviation
Have you ever wondered how astronauts travel to space where there is a high level of solar heat? Gold plating is done on an astronaut’s helmets for protection from the dangerous effects of solar radiation. Also, many satellites carry gold-coated mylar sheets to protect them from solar heat.