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julia999's avatar

Using the electrochemical series, how can I explain why manufacturers coat steel nails with zinc rather than copper?

Asked by julia999 (338 points ) September 15th, 2009

I’m looking at this question in my chemistry book and I’m having trouble explaining the reason why manufacturers would use zinc rather than copper to prevent the corrosion of a steel nail (which contains iron, Fe).

Using the electrochemical series, I can see that Fe would react with zinc, but not with copper. (I assume that bit is right anyhow?)

However I have a feeling that examiners would prefer a more substantial explanation. Getting what I think into words has been causing me a bit of grief, I would really appreciate some help.

Thanks in advance!

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6 Answers

sandystrachan's avatar

Because the use of zinc is…......... Nah you do the work , or its called cheating :P

Harp's avatar

See if this helps.

julia999's avatar

Thanks for the link Harp

grumpyfish's avatar

Completely ignoring the homework assignment (which seems to be well answered by Harp’s link!), there’s also the very simple reason of material costs:

The current spot price for copper is around $2.80/lb

The current spot price for zinc is around $0.83/lb

You can buy copper coated nails for specialized purposes, and filler wire for welding is normally copper coated (when you burn zinc, you get really nasty fumes—same reason you should never weld on galvanized steel).

julia999's avatar

Thanks grumpyfish. Yes cost would be one of the factors in choosing a material.
Though I should probably add that this isn’t homework – we haven’t even started Redox Chem in class yet.

Axemusica's avatar

Well, I used to frame houses and I’ve never actually seen a copper nail, but I do know that sinker’s have lubricant type of coating that allow for quick nailing, hence the name and galvanized (I’m assuming is the zinc?) is used for holding. I.E. you wouldn’t want to use a sinker for long term use, as in lets say a house wall. It would rust and become brittle over time and eventually not be very “secure” in it’s placing. Galvanized nails on the other hand are jagged, not smooth like the other and will fight off rust and corrosion. Most housing and stuff built for long term use are made with galvanized steal. I’m not sure if this helps.

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