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The Reactivity Series

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A series of free IGCSE Chemistry Activities and Experiments (Cambridge IGCSE Chemistry).

The Reactivity Series
The following table shows the reactivity series of metals and how to remember them using a mnemonic. Scroll down the page for examples and solutions.

Reactivity Series of Metals

Reactivity of Metals
How metals react with water and with dilute acids and how to use this information to order the elements by reactivity.
Explore why some metals are more reactive than other in terms of their ability to form a positive ion.
Use the reactivity series to explain the displacement of metals.

Metal Displacement and the Activity Series
Metals differ in their tendency to lose electrons; more reactive metals lose electrons more easily.
A more reactive metal is able to donate electrons to the ion of a less reactive metal in a displacement reaction
• Write equations and half-equations for reactions between a metal and the ion of a less reactive metal.
Differences in metal reactivity can be represented as a metal activity series.
• Determine whether a reaction will occur between a metal and a solution containing the ions of another metal, given a metal activity series containing both metal.
CuSO4(aq) and Zn(s)
AgNO3(aq) and Cu(s)

Predicting Displacement
Given a table of metal activity you can identify which metal will be displaced.
The more active metal is oxidised to ions.
The less active metal ion is reduced to the solid metal.
1. What would occur when an iron nail is submerged in a zinc nitrate solution?
2. Identify the metal being oxidised, the metal ion being reduced and write the reduction, oxidation and overall reactions for the following pairs of metals, where a reaction occurs:
a) Chromium(s) and Sodium(aq)
b) Nickel(s) and Lead(aq)
c) Magnesium(s) and Silver(aq)
Displacement Reactions - The Reactivity Series
This activity investigates the reactions between powdered metals (magnesium, copper, iron, zinc) and the solutions (magnesium sulphate, copper sulphate, iron sulphate, zinc sulphate). This observational exercise allows the metals to be placed in series depending on their reactivity.
Reaction of magnesium with magnesium sulphate, copper sulphate, iron sulphate, zinc sulphate
Reaction of copper with magnesium sulphate, copper sulphate, iron sulphate, zinc sulphate
Reaction of iron with magnesium sulphate, copper sulphate, iron sulphate, zinc sulphate
Reaction of zinc with magnesium sulphate, copper sulphate, iron sulphate, zinc sulphate
1. Put the metals used (magnesium, copper, iron, zinc) in order from the least reactive to the most reactive. The more reactive metal will displace the other metal from the solution of its metal salt.
2. Give the ionic equations for the reactions and explain why they are redox reactions.
3. Chromium is more reactive than copper but less reactive than magnesium. Use this information to complete the following word equations:
copper + chromium sulfate →
magnesium + chromium sulfate →
chromium + copper sulfate →
4. Describe how you could compare the reactivity of chromium with those of iron and zinc.

  • Show Solutions
    1. magnesium, zinc, iron, copper
    2. Mg + Cu2+ → Mg2+ + Cu
    Mg + Fe2+ → Mg2+ + Fe
    Mg + Zn2+ → Mg2+ + Zn
    Fe + Cu2+ → Fe2+ + Cu
    Zn + Cu2+ → Zn2+ + Cu
    Zn + Fe2+ → Zn2+ + Fe
    The reactions are redox reactions because the oxidation states of the reactants change.
    3. copper + chromium sulfate → no reaction
    magnesium + chromium sulfate → magnesium sulfate + chromium
    chromium + copper sulfate → copper + chromium sulfate
    4. Add chromium to solutions of zinc ions and iron ions. Add iron and zinc metal powders to chromium ion solutions. Observe what happens.

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