How to etch copper with hydrochloric acid & hydrogen peroxide

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How to etch copper with hydrochloric acid & hydrogen peroxide
Etch the copper connections on your own circuit board. (circuit board image by Sonar from Fotolia.com)

Acid etching of copper is used to create the paths on circuit boards. If you want to create your own circuit boards from scratch with the specific electrical paths that you want for your application, you can take a copper-clad circuit board and etch away all of the copper you don't want with an acid solution. This will leave conductive copper paths on the nonconductive substrate so that you can solder in different components to the board such as integrated circuits, transistors, capacitors and resistors.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Metal cleaning compound
  • Permanent markers (varying tip widths)
  • Plastic tub
  • Rubber gloves
  • Baking soda
  • Hydrochloric acid or muriatic acid
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Water

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Clean your copper-clad board thoroughly with metal cleaning compound. Any metal polishing compound will work. Allow the board to dry completely. Rinse the residue of the cleaner off with water. Draw the copper connections you want with the marker. Completely cover with ink the lines on the board that will serve as the connectors. Depending on the size of the connections you need you can use different width pen tips. Allow the ink to dry for several hours before etching.

  2. 2

    Mix one part hydrochloric (or muriatic) acid with two parts hydrogen peroxide in the tub until you have enough solution to completely cover your circuit board. Always wear rubber gloves when handling acid to avoid being burnt.

  3. 3

    Submerge the copper board, copper side up, in the solution for 10 to 20 minutes. Gently agitate the container to allow the solution to reach all the areas of the board. Rinse the board thoroughly under running water to remove all the acid. Allow it to dry completely, which may take several hours.

  4. 4

    Neutralise the acid by slowly adding baking soda to the solution, one half teaspoon at a time. Be very careful as it will bubble. Do not add so much baking soda that it bubbles over. Wait for the first batch to stop bubbling before adding more baking soda. Continue until the solution is a solid mass. Allow it to dry completely before disposing of it. Depending on the humidity and heat it can take one day to several days to dry.

Tips and warnings

  • Neutralise any spills of the acid solution with baking soda immediately to prevent burning.

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