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Science presenter Jon Chase defines electrolysis. The use of electroplating to coat cheaper metals with attractive expensive metals is described. The presenter then demonstrates how to electroplate a copper coin with zinc from a zinc nail, using dilute hydrochloric acid as the electrolyte. An animation of electrons and ions is used to explain the changes taking place at each electrode. Half equations are displayed.
Students can research other applications of electrolysis, including the extraction of aluminium from aluminium oxide and the purification of copper. Younger students will enjoy electroplating metal items such as their locker key with copper, although they should be warned about any risks associated with doing this. Older students can explore how the current and time affect the mass changes of each electrode, exploring the proportionality in these relationships or using Faraday’s laws of electrolysis.
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