The reactivity series is a list of metals arranged in decreasing order of their reactivity. In a displacement reaction, more reactive metals displace less reactive metals from their compounds. In general, the more reactive a metal is the more vigorously it reacts with other substances and the more easily it loses electrons to form positive ions.
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.
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.
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.
CuSO4(aq) and Zn(s)
AgNO3(aq) and Cu(s)
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.
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.
magnesium, zinc, iron, copper
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.
copper + chromium sulfate → no reaction
magnesium + chromium sulfate → magnesium sulfate + chromium
chromium + copper sulfate → copper + chromium sulfate
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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