How to Dissolve Copper

Written by john brennan
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How to Dissolve Copper
You can dissolve copper using a nasty chemical called nitric acid -- but be careful if you decide to do so. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Unlike sugar or salt, copper won't dissolve when you stick it in water. Sulphuric acid and nitric acid, however, are strong enough they can oxidise copper. Either acid will do the trick, although it will release noxious fumes in the process, so you should only attempt this procedure in a lab setting. As long as you take the appropriate precautions, however, this procedure can make an interesting experiment and a demonstration of an oxidation-reduction reaction.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Gloves, coat and goggles
  • Fume hood
  • Copper strip
  • Beaker
  • Water
  • 1 M nitric acid solution with plastic pipette/dropper

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  1. 1

    Don your goggles, gloves and coat. Perform this procedure under the fume hood for safety.

  2. 2

    Place the copper strip in the beaker and add a little water -- just enough to cover it.

  3. 3

    Add 10 drops of the nitric acid solution and watch to see what happens. Add more nitric acid as needed.

Tips and warnings

  • The brown gas you'll see rising from the solution is nitrogen dioxide, a major environmental pollutant also produced by emissions from cars.

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