The activity series of metals relates to the reactivity of metals; the order in which they react always from highest to lowest.
The reactivity of metals is used in order to determine what are the products od single displacement reactions. In single determined reactions, one metal replaces another metal in a solution when the first metal is higher in the series.
The reactivity of metals is the best possible way to predict how specific metals will react with other metals.
“The hardest metal yields to sufficient heat. Even so must the hardest heart melt before sufficiency of the heat of non-violence. And there is no limit to the capacity of non-violence to generate heat.” — Mahatma Ghandi
In the chart of reactivity of metals, the metals on top are more reactive than the metals that are located on the bottom.
Reactivity Series Chart
|Metal Name||Symbol||Metal Ion||Reactivity|
|Potassium||K||K+||Reacts with water.|
|Sodium||Na||Na+||Reacts with water.|
|Lithium||Li||Li+||Reacts with water.|
|Barium||Ba||Ba2+||Reacts with water.|
|Strontium||Sr||Sr2+||Reacts with water.|
|Calcium||Ca||Ca2+||Reacts with water|
|Magnesium||Mg||Mg+||Reacts with acids|
|Zinc||Zn||Zn2+||Reacts with acids|
|Chromium||Cr||Cr2+||Reacts with acids|
|Iron||Fe||Fe2+||Reacts with acids|
|Cadmium||Cd||Cd2+||Reacts with acids|
|Cobalt||Co||Co2+||Reacts with acids|
|Nitrogen||Ni||Ni2+||Reacts with acids|
|Tin||Sn||Sn2+||Reacts with acids|
|Lead||Pb||Pb2+||Reacts with acids|
|Hydrogen gas||H2||H+||Included here for comparison.|
Activity Series of Metals Chart
Before we go ahead and look at different examples, let us look at the activity series of metals chart in detail.
“Each metal has a certain power … of setting the electric fluid in motion.” — Alessandro Volta
|Lithium||Li||Displaces H2 gas from water, steam and acids and forms hydroxides.|
|Potassium||K||Displaces H2 gas from water, steam and acids and forms hydroxides.|
|Strontium||Sr||Displaces H2 gas from water, steam and acids and forms hydroxides.|
|Calcium||Ca||Displaces H2 gas from water, steam and acids and forms hydroxides.|
|Sodium||Na||Displaces H2 gas from water, steam and acids and forms hydroxides.|
|Magnesium||Mg||Displaces H2 gas from steam and acids and forms hydroxides.|
|Aluminum||Al||Displaces H2 gas from steam and acids and forms hydroxides.|
|Zinc||Zn||Displaces H2 gas from steam and acids and forms hydroxides.|
|Chromium||Cr||Displaces H2 gas from steam and acids and forms hydroxides.|
|Iron||Fe||Displaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.|
|Cadmium||Cd||Displaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.|
|Cobalt||Co||Displaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.|
|Nickel||Ni||Displaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.|
|Tin||Sn||Displaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.|
|Lead||Pb||Displaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.|
|Hydrogen gas||H2||Included on this chart just for the purpose of comparison.|
|Antimony||Sb||It combines with O2 to form oxides and cannot displace H2.|
|Arsenic||As||It combines with O2 to form oxides and cannot displace H2.|
|Bismuth||Bi||It combines with O2 to form oxides and cannot displace H2.|
|Copper||Cu||It combines with O2 to form oxides and cannot displace H2.|
|Mercury||Hg||It is found free in nature. Oxides decompose with heating.|
|Silver||Ag||It is found free in nature. Oxides decompose with heating.|
|Palladium||Pd||It is found free in nature. Oxides decompose with heating.|
|Platinum||Pt||It is found free in nature. Oxides decompose with heating.|
|Gold||Au||It is found free in nature. Oxides decompose with heating.|
Magnesium Is More Reactive Than Zinc. Both Magnesium and Zinc Are More Reactive Than Hydrogen
This is what is known as a third displacement reaction. It can be used for metals that appear lower on the chart. The distance between two given metals indicates their reactivity. Thus, the further apart they are, the more vigorous their reaction will be. For example, if you add copper to zinc ions will not result in the displacement of the zinc. Why? Because copper is located in a lower position than zinc on the table.
We have shown that it is possible to create a radioactivity characterized by the emission of positive or negative electrons in boron and magnesium by bombardment with alpha rays. – Irene Joliot-Curie
The first five top metallic elements on the chart, lithium, potassium, strontium, and calcium, are highly reactive, which means that they will react with both hot and cold water. They will also steam and thus form hydroxides and hydrogen gas.
The four metallic elements that follow on the chart, magnesium, aluminum, zinc, and chromium, are active. They will reach with steam or hot water and will form hydrogen gas and oxides.
Also, all the elements for those two groups of metals resist reduction by H2 gas.
The following six metallic elements on the chart, iron, cadmium, cobalt, nickel, and tin, will replace the hydrogen from sulfuric, nitric, and hydrochloric acids.
Heating with hydrogen gas, carbon monoxide, or carbon will reduce their oxides.
Lithium, potassium, strontium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, aluminum, zinc, chromium, iron, cadmium, cobalt, nickel, tin, lead, antimony, arsenic, bismuth, and copper will form oxides if you combine them oxygen.
The last five metallic elements on the chart, mercury, silver, palladium, platinum, and gold, are all found in nature and they have little oxides. The little oxides they have will decompose if exposed to heat.