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Chemistry in Pictures: Silver whiskers

by Manny Morone
March 5, 2020

20200305lnp20-silverwhiskers.jpg
Credit: Pedro Amaral

Pedro Amaral, a PhD student at Drexel University, captured these whiskers of silver growing on a copper coil as part of a series of photos showcasing the beauty of chemistry. This classic demonstration takes advantage of the two metals’ reduction potential, which describes how likely an atom is to surrender an electron to an electrode. In this case, silver’s reduction potential is higher than copper’s. The copper coil is floating in a solution of silver nitrate, and when the silver ions come in contact with the copper, the ions snag an electron from—or, in other words, they get reduced by—the copper atoms, creating the silver metal we see on the surface of the coil. Similarly, the copper coil releases Cu²⁺ ions into the solution, creating copper nitrate, which looks blue when dissolved.

Submitted by Pedro Amaral. You can follow him @pedroemamaral on Instagram.

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