Nickel plating. What if it wears off?

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Feb 6, 2013
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So I see a good deal of posts around the interwebs where people are concerned after flushing a loop that their gpu blocks dont look brand new and show a "rust" color. I see a great deal of overreaction to blocks not looking "brand new" anymore. I would like to open a thread here because there are alot of people on this forum that understand metals more than i do. I have built 30 plus sytems in my years as a builder, the past 8 years these have been custom loops. My understanding is that most blocks are copper blocks(aluminum has started to seep into the industry) and you can buy either pure copper or copper with nickel plating. This is not about banging on any manufacturers that have had bad nickel plating. So please dont derail the thread with that. I want to add to the watercooling base of knowledge.

So I have three questions:

1. Does nickel plating corrode over time when exposed to liquid flow.
2. If it corrodes over time and exposes the copper underneath, are you really losing performance/should you be alarmed. What is acceptable wear?
3. What are the real benefits of nickel plating in a pc application. Should you avoid the headache and just stay with copper?

Of course I am talking about the parts that are exposed to water, not the cold plate on a cpu block.

I ask again to not give anecdotal references to things that have annoyed you, just answer the questions.
 

Nimisys

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Platings corrode with time, period. The timeline varies with environment, but it will happen. A good amount of the time I spend on restoration is removing old plating and prepping for new.

Performance I doubt is impacted in any way measurable short of very precise scientific readings. The real concern is if it comes off in flakes that can plug blocks.

Plating here is done for aesthetic reasons. In other roles it is done to protect the base metal. Copper is relatively soft as well as reactive to some compounds, but it is/was cheap and is easy to machine.

Personally I have some old barbs that have long lost their internal nickel plating. But not being seen, I really don't care.
 

THRESHIN

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A related question, I've always had nothing but copper and brass (the rad) in my loop with the exception of the pump which is stainless steel inside. At least I think it is, swiftech 655.

Since my chemistry has always sucked, how would having the nickel plating affect the loop as far as corrosion goes? This is using just deionized or distilled water so there's no corrosion inhibitor present. Obviously, putting aluminum in would be a bad idea.
 

Nimisys

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Here you go: https://eicac.co.uk/Anodic-Index#:~... there must be two,to the more cathodic metal.

You want the metals to be within .15v of each other. Nickel plating with brass is .10v difference.

Chrome is actually closer to .3v difference

Stainless, according to various plumbing sites, is a mixed bag, depending on the grade, it may or may not be ok with the grade of copper or brass in use.

Another source, often forgotten about, is the solder used in the radiators. While 90+% silver solder is available, the vast majority are in the 40-60% silver to Tin ratio. Tin lead solder is .65v, where pure silver solder is the same as copper and some brass, 0.35v
 
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THRESHIN

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Here you go: https://eicac.co.uk/Anodic-Index#:~... there must be two,to the more cathodic metal.

You want the metals to be within .15v of each other. Nickel plating with brass is .10v difference.

Chrome is actually closer to .3v difference

Stainless, according to various plumbing sites, is a mixed bag, depending on the grade, it may or may not be ok with the grade of copper or brass in use.

Another source, often forgotten about, is the solder used in the radiators. While 90+% silver solder is available, the vast majority are in the 40-60% silver to Tin ratio. Tin lead solder is .65v, where pure silver solder is the same as copper and some brass, 0.35v

Great info, thank you
 

Ready4Dis

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Honestly, performance probably gets better as the plating comes off, just doesn't look as pretty. Copper is better at conducting heat than nickel.. that said it's probably indistinguishable due to how thin plating typically is ;)
 
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Honestly, performance probably gets better as the plating comes off, just doesn't look as pretty. Copper is better at conducting heat than nickel.. that said it's probably indistinguishable due to how thin plating typically is ;)
Thanks for this. I always thought nickel helped the heat transfer process, to a small extent, and that's why it was done. So its just about aesthetics.
 

Nimisys

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Can't find the actual value for CuO, but copper, untarnished, is rated at 300Kcal/m・h・℃ , Nickel at 79Kcal/m・h・℃. Though Copper forms CuO in the presence of water. Interestingly, a Google search for the thermal conductivity of CuO pretty much brings up the same answer of around 33W/min K, but that is actuatly the value of a nanofluid of ethlyene glycol with CuO suspended in it (water is 0.6W/min K) and not the actual metal. However everyone seems to reference that study for the value.
 
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I ran a loop for 5 years without changing fluids or adding anything but distilled to it when it started to get a little low. The cpu block was a ek supreme hf full nickel and the gpu blocks were danger den copper blocks. The temps never changed but the cpu block sure did. The plating was gone and the block fins had turned black and corroded along with the gpu blocks turning brown and black on the flat surface. The gpu fins were fine and the coolant didnt change color, it was still clear and the ddc pump looked and ran fine. The barbs were chrome and still looked fine as well. If i hadnt finally pulled the loop apart to retire it i never would have known the cpu block was shot.
Im assuming the cpu block was nickel plated copper rather than brass which may explain why the temps never changed but i honestly cant remember.
 

Nimisys

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In trying to find the Anodic Index of Anodized Aluminum, I found this white paper: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ORBqCvpGVF7CiXoKK3QPgBjV09VJgBnY/view?usp=drivesdk

Interesting passage from it:
6 . Do not use deionized/distilled water
a. While deionized/distilled water carries very little charge, it is known to be highly corrosive
to copper as well as several other metals.
b. Deionized water will rip Cu ions from any copper in the system, contaminating the water
and corroding any copper in the system. The Cu ion tear-off process is accelerated by
the higher temperatures and water speeds that exist locally inside the power generator
cooling systems.

First I heard of that.

I am debating replacing some acrylic splitters I made with anodized aluminum air manifolds, thus the research. I theory, as I run automotive coolant anyways, so I ought to be ok, but still knowingly adding aluminum, even anodized, into the mix is an awfully big leap...
 
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