What Happens When You Mix Silver Nitrate And Copper

Mixing silver nitrate and copper is one of the most famous chemistry experiments, with it starring in many a school science lesson around the globe.

The experiment involves introducing copper – typically a copper wire – to a silver nitrate/water solution and suspending it there for a couple of hours.

The combining of both triggers a single replacement reaction, where copper is changed from its elemental form (Cu) to its blue aqueous ion form (Cu2+ [aq]), while the silver ions (Ag+ [aq]) in the silver nitrate solution will be changed into their elemental metallic form (Ag) and deposited onto the wire.

Did you know … Silver nitrate is poisonous and causes corrosion.

These silver deposits continue to grow off the copper in a series of fractal-like crystals until all reactable copper in the solution is exhausted, leaving the end products of silver and copper nitrate.

Silver Nitrate And CopperThe reason this replacement reaction occurs is that the atoms in the copper are oxidised when introduced to the silver nitrate solution, losing electrons and forming copper ions, while the silver ions in the nitrate solution are reduced (ie they gain electrons) into elemental silver.

What’s really cool is that once the silver crystals have grown they can be removed from the copper, dried off and then displayed as funky pieces of fractal art.

Did you know ... In ancient times, copper was coming only from Cyprus, and was known as the “aes Cyprium” (Cyprian ore)

What is silver nitrate

The silver nitrate is a silver salt of a chemical formula of AgNO3. Due to its high solubility in water and other polar solvents, much less light sensitivity than silver halides, as well as lower prices due to lower production costs, is used as a universal precursor for the synthesis of many other silver compounds.

Silver nitrate is a crystalline substance of white color. The melting point was 212 ° C (413.6 ° F) and the boiling point at 444 ° C (831.2 ° F) with degradation to elemental silver, nitrogen (IV) oxide and oxygen.

When making a photographic film, the solution of silver nitrate is mixed with a solution of sodium or potassium halide salt to produce an insoluble silver halide in a photographic gel applied on tri-acetate or polyester ribbons.

Silver nitrate is also used to prepare some explosives such as silver fulminate, silver azide and silver acetylide.

Did you know … If silver-nitrate gets on skin, the skin turns white first, and after an hour it will darken!

Use of silver nitrate in medicine

For the last 120 years, numerous studies have been carried out, taking into account chemistry of nanoparticles of silver and their antimicrobial application.

About silver as antibiotic and sterilizer are the pages of numerous books. All of them have been based on human experience for the past 1200 years.

Silver and silver products have been known for thousands of years due to their impact on hygiene and health. Even Hippocrates, the father of medicine, knew his healing properties.

Medieval pharmacists were selling silver nitrate, which they called lapis, as a means of rubbing or removing warts on the hands. Silver nitrate was also replenished for the treatment of severe burns, and it worked to prevent infection.

In the second half of the 19th century German gynecologist Carl Siegmund Franz Crede found that 1% of silver nitrate solution had a great impact against gonorrhea.

This discovery is so significant and reliable that even today, when newborns are born, the silver nitrate is poured into the eyes to prevent gonorrhea conjunctivitis.


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