Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Muralidhar K. Ghantasala

Second Advisor

Dr. Daniel Kujawski

Third Advisor

Dr. HoSung Lee


Electroplating, polymer, nanoengineered, nanoindentation, SEM

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The development of a polyethylene based polymer with metallic inclusions, a nanoengineered polymer, has recently opened up great potential for many new commercial and industrial applications. The major advantage of developing these nanoengineered polymers is to be able to tailor the resistance and other properties by varying the composition of the polymer. The industrial usage of this polymer benefits from the addition of an electrically conductive, metallic coating. This research develops methods of electroplating nickel and copper layers on to the polymer substrates using DC and pulsed techniques.

Electroplating is conducted in a 1000 mL beaker using a specialized plating fixture with Nickel Sulfamate and Copper Acid as the electrolyte solutions for the nickel and copper films, respectively. The deposition duty cycles and cathodic current densities are varied to generate 24 unique samples. Examination of the electroplated coatings is completed utilizing Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), as well as nano-indentation analysis to measure mechanical properties.

The SEM analysis concluded the nickel film’s exhibit a greater degree of porosity than the copper films, as a lack of nucleation site formation is noted early in the deposition process. SEM imaging also revealed the relative grain size of each parameter combination, of which copper films exhibit distinct, clear grain boundaries, whereas nickel films feature a smooth featureless topography. The Nanoindentation results concluded a positive correlation between an increase in the duty cycle and/or current density to an increase in hardness and Young’s Modulus for both copper and nickel films. Copper films are found to exhibit a higher Young’s Modulus and a lower hardness than the nickel films, across all electrodeposition parameters. These parameters are confirmed significant at a 95 percent confidence level as per an ANOVA statistical examination.