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Metallographic Copper Etchants

The most common etchants for copper alloys contain either ammonium hydroxide, nitric acid or ferric chloride, however, there are hundreds of more specific etchants. A good resouce for additional etchants can be found with the etchant database provided by PACE Technologies:

http://database.metallographic.com/pace-etchant.php

Sample Preparation: Copper alloys must be properly prepared to reveal the true metallographic microstructure. A number of recommended procedures can be found at the following links:

http://www.metallographic.com/Metallographic-Preparation-Procedures/Copper-Description.htm

http://www.metallographic.com/Brochures/Met-Manual-2b.pdf

CAUTION: Safety is very important when etching. Be sure to wear the appropriate protective clothing and observe all WARNINGS on chemical manufacturers SDS (Safety Data Sheets). Also review COMMENTS Section for each etchant.

Recommended Etchants

Etchant

Conc.

Conditions

Comments

Distilled water
Ammonium hydroxide
Hydrogen peroxide (3%)

25 ml
25 ml
5-25 ml

Seconds to minutes (use only fresh)

-Grain boundaries use less H2O2
-Grain contrast use more H2O2

Distilled water
Nitric acid

50 ml
50 ml

Seconds to minutes

Copper and copper alloys

Distilled water or Ethanol
Hydrochloric acid
Ferric chloride

100-120 ml
25-50 ml
5-10 grams

Seconds to minutes

Produce grain contrast


Metallographic micrograph of etched copper
Tough Pitch copper, etched, Mag. 100X


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