The Electroless Nickel Plating Process

The process of electroless nickel plating produces a nickel alloy that can be deposited without using an external power source. The electroless nickel solution involved consists of nickel ions, reducing agents and other chemicals. The most commonly used reducing agent is sodium hypophosphite. Nickel phosphorous alloys can be deposited on to specially activated surfaces, which act as a catalyst.

The metal layer deposited by the electroless nickel plating process has the advantage of having an even thickness over all surfaces of the component, virtually regardless of its shape. This effect cannot be achieved with electrodeposited coatings.

Before the electroless nickel plating process can begin, the parts have to be treated suitably. Electroless nickel solutions operate specifically according to their end requirements in a pH 4-9 medium at a temperature of between 25-92 degrees centigrade. The thickness of the nickel deposit depends on the operating conditions and time. Depending on solution composition and working parameters it is possible to deposit nickel phosphorous alloy layers with a phosphorous content between approximately 2 and 14% by weight.

It is possible to plate almost all metals including stainless steel, steel, aluminium and its alloys, and brass. It is also possible to plate non-conductive materials such as plastic and ceramics. Each type of material requires a specific pre treatment method. The quality of the electroless nickel deposit is dependent upon the quality and surface finish of the substrate material. In contrast with many electroplated nickel coatings the electroless nickel deposit reproduces the substrate surface finish.


Electroless Nickel Plating and its Uses in Architecture

Electroless nickel plating can be used to coat mild steel or aluminium for external use on buildings, as is great for corrosion resistance. It can also be used as a cheaper alternative to stainless steel.

Electroless Nickel Plating can also be used as an alternative to galvanizing, powder coating or even stainless steel for balustrades, balconies and feature stairs.

Repairs and alterations to electroless nickel plated materials can be done on site. Although the nickel plated pieces would be prepared off site, the size of the tanks used to nickel plate the components are very large, therefore resulting in much fewer joins.

Expected lifespan

The expected lifespan for electroless nickel plated materials depends on the specific project, as certain factors affect the lifespan, (for example, salt spray by the sea.) Electroless nickel plating usually lasts decades.

Did you know?

-NiTEC nickel plated a staircase in the The Natural History Museum’s glass extension ‘The Darwin Centre’.

-Electroless nickel plating could also be used to treat steel cladding panels as a feature type material.

To find out more about electroless nickel plating, visit for more information.