Introduction to Silver Electroplating

Silver plating has been around since the 18th Century, when it was used to produce household products. However, it wasn’t until the 19th Century, when electroplating was introduced, that silver started to be more commonly used for industrial applications.

Although a relatively old process, silver electroplating is today widely used within modern technology, thanks to its many excellent properties.

What is silver electroplating, and how is it achieved?

In short, silver electroplating is a surface coating of silver which is deposited onto a substrate (usually another metal).  Electroplating involves passing an electrical current from one electrode to another through a conductive bath called an electrolyte, causing a chemical reaction.  The electrolyte will be a solution containing the metal to be deposited on the substrate, in this case silver.  One of the electrodes will be the substrate which is to have the silver deposited on it.

When the electricity flows through the electrolyte, through a chemical reaction, the silver atoms split from the solution and are deposited as a thin layer onto the electrode which needs to be plated.  This electrode is negatively charged and is called a cathode.  During the process, the silver atoms in the electrolyte become positively charged and will be attracted to the negatively charged cathode.

Silver can be electroplated onto a number of substrates including steel, aluminium, copper, tin and nickel to improve the technical performance of these metals.

 

Why use silver?

Silver is electroplated to provide many excellent benefits to a number of products and components.  The main properties are:

  • Protection from corrosion
  • Superior wear resistance
  • Outstanding lubricity, even at extreme temperatures
  • High electrical conductivity
  • Improved solderability
  • Anti-galling
  • Low-friction

Thanks to these excellent properties, silver is used widely in the aerospace, defence and electronics sectors, where high performance components and products are critical.

Common applications for electroplated silver include:

  • Electrical contacts and components in the electronics industry
  • Small terminal connectors for use in semi-conductor, telecoms and computer technologies
  • Connectors used in power generation
  • Various components used in the aerospace and defence sectors

There are only a few of the uses of electroplated silver.  There are many more uses in industries all around the world.

 

What other metals are used for electroplating?

There are a number of metals that can be used to electroplate substrates. It all depends on the properties of the coating required, the final use of the product or component, or the manufacturer’s preference.  Metals such as gold, bright or matt tin, nickel, copper and zinc are often used for electroplating, as well as alloys such as brass or bronze.

These metals are used to meet a wide range of technical needs such as hardness, corrosion resistance, conductivity, low-friction requirements, and solderability to name but a few.  Some metals, such as gold, are now used as an alternative to the highly regulated and environmentally harmful elements such as cadmium or chromium.

 

Who are Frost Electroplating?

Frost Electroplating have been providing surface coating technologies including gold and silver electroplating, anodising and electroless nickel plating to customers in the aerospace, defence, electronic and automotive sectors for over 130 years.

With innovative and high-performance coating solutions and processes for new technologies and industries, we are able to solve many problems and improve the properties of our customers’ products.

We pride ourselves in the quality of our services and have been awarded a number of accreditations including:

  • ISO900 quality management systems and processes
  • AS9100 quality management standard for the aerospace industry
  • SC21 supply chain performance in the aerospace sector.

 

If you would like more information on our surface coating technologies, please browse our website or contact us on 0121 433 3091.