Sciencemadness Discussion Board

My current project: "6-cent catalyst"

Oxydro - 26-6-2010 at 15:21

OK - the catalyst is not literally $0.06 in cost. The reference is to the Canadian nickel ( 5 cents) and penny, for a a total of 6 cents.

Here, I try to create Urushibara nickel from nickels and pennies. Not for any particular purpose. Just felt like an experiment.

Nickels, here in Canada, were - until they became worth more as scrap than coins - just that: Nickel, 99.9% pure. The last year of purity was I believe 1981, after that it was a copper-nickel alloy, now it's just steel with plating.

Pennies have gone through many compositions, but between at least 97 and 2000 they were mostly zinc with copper plating. After 2000, you need a magnet, because the zinc and steel substrates were co-produced (the official story is they are steel since 2000, but I have in my possession a 2010 zinc penny!). Getting zinc from the pennies is described by 12AX7 elsewhere. I will then powder the zinc probably with a ballmill (been meaning to make one for a long time!).

I currently have 3 nickels sitting in ~250 mL of hydrochloric acid, hardware store grade. They have been there about 2 days now, hydrogen is bubbling up nicely and the solution is a beautiful green. Once either A) the bubbles stop or B) the nickels are gone - impatience being a third possible limit, I will dry most of the solution to give the NiCl2 hexahydrate powder, for future use, and the remainder I will add to zinc powder to precipitate finely powdered nickel.

At that point I have to decide what to use the catalyst for, so I can choose the prep to follow (acid or base?) so: Any ideas for catalytic hydrogenations, etc, for me to carry out? It must be legal and not terribly suspicious, I'm not into doing drug chemistry, though I like it from the armchair.

Magpie - 26-6-2010 at 16:29

That sounds like a neat project, Oxyhydro. I have collected a few Canadian nickels myself just to have a ready source of nickel should I need it. The appropriate minting years can be found elsewhere on this forum.

Is the Urushibara catalyst easier to prepare than Raney nickel, or have other advantages? Just turning some benzene into cyclohexane seems like a neat thing to do with such a catalyst. What kind of pressures are typically used for hydrogenations with these catalysts?

[Edited on 27-6-2010 by Magpie]

mnick12 - 26-6-2010 at 16:48

I made a tiny amount of ururshibara nickel from Nickel acetate and zinc dust. I would say it is much easyer to prepare in a lab than Raney nickel. Here is an article on it . I find it interesting that nickel nitrate cant be used to generate the nickel. Does anyone know why?

Also were US nickels ever made out of nickel?

Oxydro - 26-6-2010 at 17:40

Certainly it is easier than Raney nickel, also safer - it isn't generally pyrophoric. Another advantage is that it can be reused with minimal effort.

US nickels are 25% nickel with the balance copper. So are Canadian ones in between the nickel and plated steel versions. I'm not sure about getting the copper out - I think the nickel should be attacked preferentially leaving the copper behind, but you might have to grind them up to expose the nickel better. Even if you end up with a mixed solution of copper and nickel salts, a little care should purify it. Calculate the exact amount of zinc (or aluminum if you prefer, or anything else that will reduce copper) to correspond with the copper salt present. Addition of the zinc should precipitate the copper (stir and give it some time, local spikes in concentration might reduce nickel to metal, but it should be oxidized by the copper salt). The copper can then be filtered out, leaving the nickel chloride mixed with zinc chloride, which will be irrelevant to the rest of the process.

As to the relative inactivity of the nitrate, I really don't know. Looking at the nitrate on wiki I wonder if the water of hydration possibly acts to protect the nickel ion, but my understanding of solution chemistry is so poor that I don't know if that is at all reasonable.

Contrabasso - 26-6-2010 at 23:26

Several laboratory tools are made of nickel, spatulas and tongs for a starter - yes I know that some are plastic or stainless.

If you can find an electroplating shop in your neighbourhood then they may have Ni pellets for loading into anode baskets buy a few lumps or a pound or so.

Search metal finishing suppliers in your locality

mr.crow - 28-6-2010 at 19:33

I sorted my pile of change and have 5 nickels (22.9g) from the 60s and 70s. This should yield 92.7g of NiCl2 6H20. Not that bad!

not_important - 29-6-2010 at 00:24

Quote: Originally posted by mnick12  
...I find it interesting that nickel nitrate cant be used to generate the nickel. Does anyone know why?

Urushibara catalysts are reducing agents, as is the zinc or Al used to make them. Ni(NO3)2 contains nitrate, surprise, which is open to being reduced both by Zn/Al and the formed catalyst.

Mr. crow - test those Canadian nickels with a magnet, the alloy ones aren't magnetic.

[Edited on 30-6-2010 by not_important]

mr.crow - 29-6-2010 at 06:13

Nickel is also ferromagenetic :p

Here is a history of the composition

JohnWW - 29-6-2010 at 15:49

Until about 2 years ago, 1947 and later New Zealand "silver" coins were cupronickel, about 75% Cu and 25% Ni. (prior to that, since New Zealand issued its own coins starting in 1933 instead of using British currency, about 50% Ag, 38% Cu, 12% Ni). When the coinage was changed about 2 years ago, to much smaller "silver" coins which are probably Cu plated with Ni, I retained a fairly large quantity of the old coins, partly for the Cu and Ni content, and partly as a substitute for stainless steel washers to use with stainless steel bolts and screws in weather-resistant constructions. Of course, I will be sorting out and selling any of the coins that are rare and valuable due to few of them having been minted in particular years. Cupronickel is paramagnetic, but not ferromagnetic.

[Edited on 29-6-10 by JohnWW]

Oxydro - 29-6-2010 at 17:52

To update - after several days of slow bubbling... I found with disgust that the coins were still so intact that the dates were clearly readable through the glass. The solution was a nice green, around the color of green apple syrup if you know what that looks like.... but certainly the process is too slow. The bubbles evolved were tiny, for the most part, much smaller than you would see in champagne for instance.

So, time to upgrade - I set it in my top-quality jamjar-mantle - or rather, a tiny version of a crockpot that was originally supposed to be for heating scented products. You know, scented candles without the asthma-causing smoke, or whatever. Ex-tenant had abandoned it, I knew it would be useful sooner or later.

Now, the solution is still well below boiling, the jar can be comfortably picked up, but it's cloudy now from the bubbles, going like crazy it would seem :), it now bubbles like Coke after maybe 15 seconds in the glass. I suspect the coins will be largely gone in the morning!

Forgive the stupid comparisons to drinks, but to me it seemed the best description I could come up with on the spot. Oh, and also noted: i have clingwrap over the jar, mostly to keep dust out, it's not airtight, but it kept the smell imperceptible. Now, with heating, the downstairs is stimulatingly hydrochloric. Waiting for the SO to discover, she won't be happy, but "I've already put it outside and the windows are open, and it's no worse for you than throwing up."


From the article on Rhodium:

Nickel nitrate solution hardly reacts with zinc dust,

So it really doesn't seem that the nitrate being reduced is the problem - it would still react, just not perhaps precipitating efficiently the Ni.

Or is it passivating the zinc dust?

Edit: Just thought of something - I live right next to train tracks (maybe 20 meters) - next time I do this I think I'll allow the CBNS Railway to help by flattening my coins.

[Edited on 30-6-10 by Oxydro]

bbartlog - 29-6-2010 at 18:58

A possible alternative to heating would be to bubble air into the HCl. I know that dissolving copper in HCl pretty much requires some intermediate oxidation. Sounds like your nickel is dissolving OK just from the temperature, though.

local spikes in concentration might reduce nickel to metal, but it should be oxidized by the copper salt

I don't think your proposed nickel/copper separation works (there is a thread devoted to just this topic, and it's a little tricky). But obviously you don't actually need to perform such a separation.

mr.crow - 30-6-2010 at 08:40

How about adding H2O2?

I used H2SO4 instead of HCl but stupidly made it too dilute so nothing happened. Time to boil it down.

If you basement smells like HCl then everything is going to rust. I hate using HCl