I've just been explaining electrolysis to ds and related how we copper plated 20p pieces in a chemistry lesson when I was in y9.
Ds is really keen to do this but won't get to do it at school for a few years. Is this something I can safely do at home? If I get some CuSO4 solution and use copper electrodes with a 20p attached to one I'll just end up with some dilute sulphuric acid mixed in with the copper sulphate won't I?
I did chemistry to A Level so I'm not completely ignoramt here but I want to make sure I'm not missing something obvious.
Sounds about right. You'll need a battery, maybe 6V? It might work with lower voltages. Then as you say you need a beaker of copper sulphate solution (I'd make up a fairly saturated solution, but it'll work with lower concentrations). Copper sulphate is harmful, so watch your son near it, especially if he's quite young (no hands near mouth or eyes, wash off skin immediately, wear goggles if possible). The coin needs to go on the cathode (negative terminal). So coming from your battery you'll need 2 wires, one wire on each terminal of the battery, with a crocodile clip at the end of each wire. You can then clip your coin into the crocodile clip and hang it in the CuSO4 solution. The anode can be made of copper, although if you can't get hold of any strips of copper, then try it without - I have a feeling there would be enough copper in the solution for it to work anyway. You can buy flat strips of copper metal, and clip one of those into a crocodile clip on the end of some wire coming from the anode. An internet search should bring up something. BBC bitesize is usually quite good. I'm writing all this off the top of my head and I haven't taught for a couple of years, but you can always do a bit of experimenting with your son to get it to work. Nuffield also have an experiment you could follow:http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-physics/copper-plating-various-metal-objects. I'm not sure the silver nitrate plating solution they talk about is actually necessary though. RSC (royal society of chemistry) is another place to search - they have lots of resources on their website.