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liquid to the sheet of copper, then along the copper wire to the sheet of silver, then through the plating-liquid to the articles to be coated, and back to the zinc plate by the other copper
The electricity in passing from the surface of the sheet of silver into the plating-liquid causes the cyanide of potassium to act upon that metal and dissolve it, and at the same time the electricity passing into the surface of the articles decomposes the solution in contact with them and causes it to yield up its silver to those surfaces; and these two simultaneous actions are perfectly equal in amount, i. e., for every ounce of silver dissolved on one side an ounce of silver is deposited on the other, and thus the amount of silver in solution remains unaltered for an indefinitely long period. The only alteration that takes place in the liquid is that it becomes unequal in composition in different parts-that portion of it about the dissolvingplate becomes richer in silver and specifically heavier, and therefore sinks to the bottom of the vat, whilst that about the articles becomes poorer in silver, specifically lighter, and rises to the surface; and this inequality renders it necessary to stir the liquid occasionally, otherwise the quality of the metal deposited upon the articles would be different at the upper ends to what it is at their lower ones.
In most electro-plating establishments two or three such battery-cells as those described are used for depositing silver, and in the early period of plating a much larger number was used. When several cells are employed, the zinc plate of the first one is connected by a wire with the copper of the next, and so on throughout the series, leaving the extreme copper at one end and the extreme zinc of the other to be connected with the vat in the manner described: by this means there is a course opened throughout for the electricity to circulate, and each additional cell or pair of plates imparts an additional impulse to the electric current.*
Several other kinds of voltaic batteries besides the one described are also extensively used in electro-deposition; there is Smee's battery, which contains a sheet of platinized silver instead of the sheet of copper; Grove's, which consists of amalgamated zinc in dilute sulphuric acid and a sheet of platinum in strong nitric acid, the two liquids being kept from mixing freely, but allowed to touch each other by means of a separating diaphragm or cell of unglazed (i. e. porous) earthenware; and Bunsen's battery, which is similar to Grove's; graphite (obtained from gas retorts) being, however, employed instead of the sheet of platinum. Daniell's battery, which con
*Plate V. fig. 3. Zinc and silver are here used.
sists of amalgamated zinc in dilute sulphuric acid, and copper in a solution of sulphate of copper, the two liquids being separated by a porous partition, is not much used for electro-plating; and the preference of one battery over another for electro-deposition depends partly upon the bias of the plater in favour of that particular battery, but chiefly upon the special purpose for which the battery is intended; in cases where great resistance is offered to the passage of the electric current, as in solutions for coating articles of iron, &c., with brass, the more powerful batteries of Grove and Bunsen are used. Whichever of these batteries is employed, and whatever may be the metal intended to be deposited, the article to receive the coating is always connected with the zinc plate of the battery, and the metal to be dissolved is connected with the copper, silver, carbon, or platinum, as the case may be.
All metallic articles that are to be coated with silver or other metals by electro-process require to be perfectly cleaned and prepared before being placed in the plating-liquid, otherwise the metal deposited upon them will not adhere properly. To clean them they are at first immersed in a boiling solution of caustic potash to remove greasy and tarry matters; then, if they are formed of German silver, brass, or copper, they are washed in water, dipped momentarily into aquafortis, again washed in water, then dipped into a very dilute solution either of nitrate of mercury or of cyanide of mercury and potassium, and immersed in the silver-plating vat. In cases where it is desired to know the quantity of silver deposited upon them, they are weighed after cleansing, and also at intervals during the process of deposition. Articles formed of Britannia metal, lead, tin, and similar metals or alloys, are not dipped into aquafortis, but immersed in a weak silver solution immediately from the caustic potash liquid, to receive a thin preparatory electro-coating, and then transferred to the ordinary silver vat. The thickness of silver deposited upon articles is frequently very minute, as may be judged from the fact that full-sized iron snuffers are sometimes wholly coated with silver for two-pence each pair, and other common articles at proportionate prices.
After receiving the coating of silver, much remains to be done to the articles before they assume a saleable condition, they have to be "scratched" by a bundle of revolving fine brass wires to remove asperities; burnished to make them bright; in some cases, they have to be "oxidized" in particular parts. This consists in wetting those parts with a solution of bichloride of platinum, which blackens those portions; and, in other cases, different parts, as, for instance, the interior of cream-jugs, sugar-basins, &c., have to be electro-gilded. And in cases where portions of the exterior have to be gilded, the remaining
surface is coated with copal-varnish, to prevent the gilding from taking place on those parts. And, finally, the articles are washed in clean water, and at once immersed in hot, dry sawdust, which absorbs the moisture and dries them quickly, before they have time to tarnish. The processes of preparing and finishing articles are, in nearly all cases, much more troublesome than that of plating itself.
These various points of information are only the outlines of the process of electro-plating, and for the details the reader is referred to the various published works on the subject.
The scientific perfection of electro-deposition consists in its definite mathematical character. Under carefully prepared conditions, all the chemical actions that occur in the battery and plating-vat stand in certain precise mathematical relations to each other; for every 32 parts of zinc dissolved in each cell of the battery, there are 108 parts of silver dissolved and 108 parts deposited in the vat; or if it be a copper solution, 31 parts of copper, or an antimony solution, 40 parts of antimony; for every 32 parts of zinc dissolved in the battery, there are 9 parts of water decomposed, and if it be a Smee's, or a common zinc and copper cell, there is 1 part of hydrogen set free at the negative silver or copper plate; and similarly with all the chemical actions taking place in the various battery-cells and depositing liquids. Each action in a given circuit stands in a certain mathematical relation to each and all the others, and this is known as the law of "definite electro-chemical action."
The artistic advantage of electro-deposition consists in the great facilities it affords for the exercise of taste and design, and for more accurately imitating the forms of nature, as in rocks, animals, fruits, trees, &c. And its domestic utility and household economy consist in the greater degree of cleanliness and beauty obtained at so moderate a cost.
As long as arts and manufactures are left to be directed and improved by simple experience, their progress is extremely slow; but directly scientific knowledge is successfully applied to them, they advance with astonishing speed. For years the manufacture of plated metal wares existed without making any material progress; but, on the application of science, its progress became surprising, and called the attention of all persons to the new process.
Thirty years ago electro-plating for commercial purposes was unknown; but as soon as Jacobi and Spencer made known the results of their electrical experiments upon metallic solutions, the manufacture of plated wares began to advance; and so rapid has been its progress, that, at the present time, thousands of persons are employed in it, and electro-plate productions are used in all parts of the world.
Thus it is that man, to some extent the servant, but hoping to become more the master of nature, is daily striving to acquire a greater knowledge of the workings of natural forces, and to apply those forces to human benefit; he first becomes the obedient disciple of nature, in order that he may ultimately become its director; and so great a degree of success has already resulted from this course, that we are justified in expecting that, at some future time, science will extend its helping hand to all trades and manufactures, and that ultimately scientific principles will be universally recognized as the great "regulators of productive industry."
EXPLANATION OF PLATE V.
Fig. 1 represents what is termed a "single-cell electrotype apparatus." It consists of an outer vessel of glass or stoneware nearly filled with the depositing solution of silver or copper, as the case may be; standing within it is a narrow, deep vessel of unglazed or porous earthenware, containing a plate of amalgamated zinc, and about three-fourths filled with dilute sulphuric acid. The article to be coated is connected by a clean copper wire and brass screw with the zinc plate, as shown in the engraving, and is immersed in the metallic solution.
Fig. 2 represents the actual apparatus for electro-plating, as at present employed. It consists of two parts, the battery A, and depositing trough or vat B; Z is the zinc plate, and C C the two copper plates of the battery, and S is the silver-dissolving plate in the metallic solution: the arrows represent the direction of the electric current. Fig. 3 represents the mode of connecting several battery-cells in series when additional electric power is required: the battery-plates in this sketch are represented as being composed of zinc, Z, and silver, S, instead of zinc and copper; the zinc of the first cell being connected by a copper wire with the silver of the second; the zinc of the second with the silver of the third; and so on.
NOTES OF THE EXHIBITION.
THE MINERALOGICAL DEPARTMENT.
BY PROFESSOR D. T. ANSTED, M.A., F.R.S.
COLLECTION of Minerals, carefully made, well arranged and selected, and placed with a view to their economic value, would, perhaps, be as interesting and attractive as any of those collections occupying the numerous halls and almost interminable corridors at South Kensington whose glittering treasures are soon about to fade and melt away from before us. Objects of large dimensions, of wonderful beauty of form and colour, of vast cost, and of enormous intrinsic value-objects representing great sources of national wealth— objects noble in their massive proportions, and interesting in proportion to the difficulty experienced in obtaining and removing them--collections speaking for themselves as showing series of manufactures and processes; all these certainly admit of being placed in such a way as to astonish, amuse, and instruct.
That such might be the result of a great series, illustrating the mineral wealth of the world, seems beyond a doubt; but that any such result has een attained at our great International Exhibition no one will venture to assert. There is ample material, whose effect is lost for want of right associations. There are separate objects in abundance, capable of attracting and really attracting crowds; there is gold exhibited in a profusion and barbaric splendour worthy of the earliest period of human history. Never, perhaps, in the world's history was such raw material of representative wealth brought together and exposed to public view. There are copper ores also-slices of veins adapted to make the mouths of mine speculators water. There are building stones and marbles, coals and china clay, and manufactured results in abundance. At a distance from these are plans, models, and illustrations of the mode of rendering them useful. But few ideas can be obtained by the
VOL. II.-NO. V.