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Activity Series Of Metals

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.

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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 NameSymbolMetal IonReactivity
PotassiumKK+Reacts with water.
SodiumNaNa+Reacts with water.
LithiumLiLi+Reacts with water.
BariumBaBa2+Reacts with water.
StrontiumSrSr2+Reacts with water.
CalciumCaCa2+Reacts with water
MagnesiumMgMg+Reacts with acids
ZincZnZn2+Reacts with acids
ChromiumCrCr2+Reacts with acids
IronFeFe2+Reacts with acids
CadmiumCdCd2+Reacts with acids
CobaltCoCo2+Reacts with acids
NitrogenNiNi2+Reacts with acids
TinSnSn2+Reacts with acids
LeadPbPb2+Reacts with acids
Hydrogen gasH2H+Included here for comparison.
AntimonySbSb2+Highly unreactive
BismuthBiBi2+Highly unreactive
CopperCuCu2+Highly unreactive
MercuryHgHg2+Highly unreactive
SilverAgAg+Highly unreactive
GoldAuAu3+Highly unreactive
PlatinumPtPt+Highly unreactive

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.

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“Each metal has a certain power … of setting the electric fluid in motion.” — Alessandro Volta

Metal NameSymbolReactivity
LithiumLiDisplaces H2 gas from water, steam and acids and forms hydroxides.
PotassiumKDisplaces H2 gas from water, steam and acids and forms hydroxides.
StrontiumSrDisplaces H2 gas from water, steam and acids and forms hydroxides.
CalciumCaDisplaces H2 gas from water, steam and acids and forms hydroxides.
SodiumNaDisplaces H2 gas from water, steam and acids and forms hydroxides.
MagnesiumMgDisplaces H2 gas from steam and acids and forms hydroxides.
AluminumAlDisplaces H2 gas from steam and acids and forms hydroxides.
ZincZnDisplaces H2 gas from steam and acids and forms hydroxides.
ChromiumCrDisplaces H2 gas from steam and acids and forms hydroxides.
IronFeDisplaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.
CadmiumCdDisplaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.
CobaltCoDisplaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.
NickelNiDisplaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.
TinSnDisplaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.
LeadPbDisplaces H2 gas from acids only and forms hydroxides.
Hydrogen gasH2Included on this chart just for the purpose of comparison.
AntimonySbIt combines with O2 to form oxides and cannot displace H2.
ArsenicAsIt combines with O2 to form oxides and cannot displace H2.
BismuthBiIt combines with O2 to form oxides and cannot displace H2.
CopperCuIt combines with O2 to form oxides and cannot displace H2.
MercuryHgIt is found free in nature. Oxides decompose with heating.
SilverAgIt is found free in nature. Oxides decompose with heating.
PalladiumPdIt is found free in nature. Oxides decompose with heating.
PlatinumPtIt is found free in nature. Oxides decompose with heating.
GoldAuIt 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.

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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.

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