Can You Coat a Nail with Copper from Pennies?
Can you do what the government does and coat a metal with copper?
Yes. Kind of.
The Materials You’ll Need
¼ cup of white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon of salt
Clean, empty glass jar
Twenty copper pennies
- Combine the vinegar and salt in the jar. Stir well.
- Add the pennies to the salt-vinegar solution in the jar. Wait three minutes.
- Clean the iron nail with the sponge, using a mixture of baking soda and water.
- Rinse the nail. Put it in the jar with the salt-vinegar solution and pennies. Be sure the vinegar covers the nail.
- Wait at least 15 minutes.
What Should Happen?
After 15 minutes, you should see a copperish tint on the nail.
Note: the nail needs to be iron, not coated and not galvanized. I had to look through several types of nails to find one.
I tried the experiment with all of them, and threw in a magnet and the end of a wire coat hanger I’d stripped the plastic coating off with pliers.
Only the uncoated nail worked.
I left the nail in the salt-vinegar penny solution all night.
This is when you see a more pronounced effect.
The nail glints like copper and is clearly coated with copper from the pennies.
This does not hurt the pennies. It just makes them shiny.
Why Does This Happen?
The acid of the vinegar combines with the copper on the pennies to form a copper acid that sticks to the iron nail.
This process only uses acid.
Electricity can be added to the process, for electroplating, the common method for covering one metal with another.
Thank you to wackyuses.com for this activity.
Click here for more experiments with electroplating, including covering a brass key with the copper from pennies.
Is This How the U.S. Mint Makes Pennies?
Although I could not find out how the U.S. Mint binds copper to a zinc interior, whether it is cladding, which is simply the term for covering a material with another or electroplating, I did find an animated explanation of how coins are made.
Click here for the U.S. Mint’s description of how a coin is made.
Since 1982, U.S. pennies have been made from zinc and coated with 2 ½ percent copper. Before 1982, a penny was 95 percent copper.
In 2004, the U.S. Mint said it cost 9/10 of a cent to make a penny.
With the rising cost of zinc and copper, by 2010 that number is up to 1 4/5 cents to make a penny. This has sparked a debate about whether the government should continue to make them.
Should prices be rounded up to the nearest nickel? A nickel also costs more to make than it is worth.
Because of the increasing cost of copper, the U.S. government has been looking at using other metals since the 1970s.
They tried to make pennies with aluminum, but pediatricians said they would be too hard to spot on an x-ray, so the effort was abandoned.
Did You Know?
The head of a penny is heavier than the tail side.
That is, the side with Lincoln’s profile, which has been on the penny since 1909, is slightly heavier than the reverse side.
While wacky uses says this is why a penny falls heads down, tail up 49.5 percent of the time, I would expect the heavier Lincoln to fall heads down more than half the time.
Ivars Peterson, author of the blog, Mathematical Tourist, tells us if you spin it on its edge, a penny is more likely to land heads up, also because of unequal weight distribution, but why would the heavier side land up?
Have you ever tried to lift copper off a penny?
Have you ever left a penny on the railroad tracks?
Have you ever used the vending machine that smashes a penny?
To you and sharing the wonders of the world with your grandchildren.
Carol Covin, Granny-Guru
Click here to nominate my book for Best Grandparenting Book at grandparents.about.com
Click here to nominate this blog for Best Grandparenting Blog at grandparents.about.com
- Chemistry Fun with Pennies chemistry.about.com
- Penny Bias mathematicaltourist.blogspot.com
- Electroplating exo.net
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Can You Coat a Nail with Copper from Pennies? Frugal Friday.