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In this activity, learners electrically plate zinc onto brass objects. They connect a brass object to a black wire on the negative pole of a 6 Volt battery, and a piece of zinc to a red wire on the positive pole. Then, learners dip both objects into a tub of zinc sulfate (ZnSO4) solution. After 45 seconds, learners can observe that the brass object is plated with zinc. This process is known as electroplating. Zinc ions (positively charged zinc atoms) in the solution are attracted to the negative pole of the battery, and when the zinc ions hit the brass object they gain electrons and attach to the object, "plating" it as a zinc coating. Background info is provided on further uses for electroplating. For safety reasons, this activity works best as a demonstration for younger audiences.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
Under 5 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Three plastic cups
  • One rectangular plastic tub approximately 5 in. long, 4 in. wide, and 2 in. high
  • One piece of aluminum foil (large enough to cover the tub)
  • One 250-ml beaker
  • One 6-volt lantern battery (keep two fresh batteries on hand)
  • Two heavy-duty alligator clips attached to both ends of a red insulated wire about 1 ft (30 cm) long (keep spare on hand)
  • One alligator clip attached to one end of a black insulated wire about 1 ft (30 cm) long (keep spare on hand)
  • About 150 g of ZnSO4 (zinc sulfate) (keep 500 g on hand)
  • CuSO4
  • 5H2O (copper sulfate) (optional) (keep 500 g on hand)
  • 50 brass paper fasteners (keep 500 + on hand)
  • 50 assorted metals (screws, paper clips, nails, keys, pennies, etc.) (keep 200 + on hand)
  • Zn (zinc) metal strip (2 in. by ⅜ in.) (keep a few spare pieces on hand)
  • Wire strippers (from general storage)
  • One voltmeter (from general storage )
  • Electrician’s tape
  • One or two 500-ml storage bottles


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Chemical Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Charges and Currents
    • Chemistry
      • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions
      • Solutions
    • Structure and Properties of Matter
      • Atomic Structure
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and the Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation