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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:

PACE Technologies Etchant Database Click here to get order

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

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

PACE Technologies Recommended Preparation for Copper PACE Technologies Metallographic MET-MANUAL Link
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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 gm
Seconds to minutes Produce grain contrast

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

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