Trivalent Versus Hexavalent Chrome

Professionals in the metal finishing business are constantly striving to use the latest data and technology to improve performance and remain environmentally friendly.

This is seen recent industry switch from hexavalent chrome to trivalent chrome. What is hexavalent chrome? Why is trivalent chrome better? Let us answer these questions and more so you can make an educated decision for your metal finishing needs.

Chromium plating is a popular coating choice for several metal finishing applications.

It provides excellent wear resistance, hardness and a bright finish when compared to some other metal finishing applications. Hexavalent chrome has been in use since chrome electroplating was commercialized and was widely in use through the early 1900s.

Hexavalent chromium is one of the valence states (+6) of the element chromium. It is usually produced by an industrial process. “Valence” describes the numerical tendency of an atom to combine with other atoms by its electric charge. Hexavalent chromium atoms have an electric charge of +6. (In comparison, trivalent chromium has a charge of +3.) Hexavalent chromium, Cr(VI), is a strong oxidizer and very reactive. Despite its wide use, several groups began investigating the health effects of exposure to hexavalent chrome.

Scientists have set out to find a safer alternative to hexavalent chromium that would deliver equivalent results. Microfinish has been using trivalent chrome for non-automotive work for over 35 years. Trivalent chrome has gone from being the novel and to the environmentally favored chrome used to greatly enhance corrosion protection. Microfinish has invested in comprehensive upgrades to satisfy trivalent chromium processing, and we are committed to providing what our customers need while doing our part to keep the planet safe.

Strict guidelines and performance requirements make the switch from hexavalent chromium plating to trivalent chromium plating a necessity. Because hexavalent has been the standard for so long, hesitation still exists regarding the switch to trivalent chrome due to concerns about performance, increased cost, and logistics of the conversion.

There are differences between hexavalent and trivalent chrome in metal finishing.

Hexavalent chrome plating, the traditional method of chromium plating, is used for both decorative and functional finishes. This type of chrome plating provides corrosion and wear resistance, and aesthetic appeal. Trivalent chrome is now accepted as the environmentally friendly alternative to hexavalent chrome with comparable properties. Trivalent chrome finishes provide scratch and corrosion resistance and are available in a variety of colors.

Trivalent chrome plating is a process more difficult to control, and the necessary chemicals cost more than those associated with hexavalent chrome. However, trivalent chrome requires less energy and can withstand current interruptions, adding to its robustness. Most importantly, trivalent chrome is less hazardous, and this reduces hazardous waste and related compliance costs.

You do not have to understand the chemical complexities of hexavalent or trivalent chromium. The St. Louis metal finishing experts at Microfinish are ready to assist with all your finishing needs and will explain the advantages and disadvantages of each option in a way that is easy to understand. Since 1959, our company has served the St. Louis community and the nation in many types of finishing processes. We care about the health and well-being of our employees, customers, and planet. It is just one more reason to feel good about your decision to utilize Microfinish for all your finishing and plating needs. Learn more by calling us at (314) 849-8181.

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