Saturday, 20 July 2013

Dissolving copper at home

Any high school student would know that in the metal activity series Copper is located below Hydrogen and therefore strictly speaking it does not react with the acidic properties of an acid but instead are reduced by the non-metallic ion of the acid for example the NO3 ion from Nitric acid reacts with the copper to form Copper Nitrate which is a blue crystalline solid. The same can be done with Sulfuric acid and the end product would be copper sulphate.

A high school student would also know that this is only possible if the Nitric/Sulfuric acid where at an extremely high level of concentration, this can be extremely dangerous for non-professional  personnel to handle and is very rarely available to the public.

 In this blog i will be showing you how to dissolve copper without the use of Nitric/Sulfuric acid and in a much safer way and with materials that are available to the general public.
 NOTE: I will still be using an acid which is at a low level of concentration but it is still to be remembered that any acid is injurious to the skin on touch and may lead to major health issues if consumed

  In this experiment i will be using Hydrochloric acid and Steel wool to make ferrous chloride and in turn ferric chloride by letting the solution sit out in the open for a while, it is this ferric chloride that reacts with the copper to form Cuppric Chloride and from this solution the copper may be extracted by putting in an iron nail or any other iron object

 To begin the experiment we are going to need HCL which is commonly sold a Muratic acid. Take some of the acid in a beaker or a heat resistant glass container and put some steel wool  into it (MAKE SURE THE STEEL WOOL IS SUBMERGED  because if it is not submerged it might cause the acid to splutter) and place a moist tissue paper on the vessel to prevent any acid from coming out. Wait for the reaction to stop, this might vary depending on the concentration of the acid as well as the quantities of the reactants used (use not more than 75-100 ml of undiluted HCL at a time). it is noticed that the solution will be yellow-green(if not then more steel wool needs to be added) in color, this solution needs to kept in an open container till the solution turns a dark brown.

What we now have is Ferric Chloride, this can be store bought and is sold as an etchent and can be expensive but is again not always available. It is this solution that will dissolve the Copper. If a copper piece is added to this solution it can be seen that the piece will slowly disintegrate turning the solution black. once this solution turns black is has been spent and to reuse it all you have to do is add some iron nails which will cause all the dissolved copper to precipitate out after filtering out the copper from the solution a little more acid needs to be added to the now yellow solution and it needs to be kept in an open container till it turns dark brown once again.

This method of dissolving copper is not only safer than using any other but also allows you to reuse and extract the copper from the solution as well as reusing the solution itself. I hope you enjoyed reading and can ask me any questions if you like by leaving a comment below.