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Explain The Reactivity Series and Electrons

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Metals have a lot of properties in common, but there are important differences between them. The reactivity series tells us which metals react quickly and violently, and which ones react slowly and gently. Ultimately, the reactivity patterns depend on the structure of the outermost electron shells.

The idea of the reactivity series starts by looking at patterns in chemical reactions for metals. We see the same order of metals from violent reactions, through gentle reactions, to no reactions at all, whatever the reaction is. This table shows how this works for some important metals.

  

Some people like to use a mnemonic to remember the order. You could use:

Please Stop Calling MA Zebra I Collect Smart Goats

but you don't have to.

Displacement reactions and the reactivity series

This picture shows what happens when you put a piece of zinc metal (grey metal) into a solution of copper sulfate (blue solution).

The brown metal forming in the beaker is copper, because a chemical reaction has happened:

CuSO4 (aq) + Zn (s) → ZnSO4 (aq) + Cu (s).

Zinc has replaced copper in the compound, leaving the copper to form metal atoms. This kind of reaction is called a displacement reaction, because the zinc has displaced (or pushed) the copper from the compound. The rule linking displacement reactions and the reactivity series is

The more reactive metal goes in the compound, and the less reactive metal stays as a metal.

So if you put aluminium in copper sulfate solution, this reaction happens:

copper sulfate + aluminium → aluminium slufate + copper (aluminium is more reactive than copper, so it goes into the compound)

If you put iron in magnesium nitrate solution, no reaction happens

magnesium nitrate + iron → magnesium nitrate + iron (magnesium is more reactive than iron, so it stays in the compound)

By trying lots of reactions like this, and noting which metals can make a reaction happen, we can sort metals into the reactivity series. The more reactions the metal does, the more reactive it is.

Electrons, displacement reactions and the reactivity series

Let's think about copper sulfate + zinc again. In copper sulfate, the copper is a Cu2+ ion. The sulfate ion (SO4) is negatively charged, (SO4)2-. Metallic zinc is neutral zinc atoms, held together by metallic bonding.

After the reaction, we have zinc sulfate; that consists of Zn2+ ions and  (SO4)2- ions. The copper is neutral metallic copper. In other words, the zinc has lost electrons, and the copper has gained electrons. We can write this as a pair of ionic equations;

Copper: Cu2+ + 2e- → Cu

Zinc: Zn → Zn2+ + 2e-

The metal which loses electrons is said to be oxidised; the metal which gains electrons is said to be reduced. The reason why these names make sense will come in another activity.

This gives us another way to think about more and less reactive metals. All metals are more stable if they can lose electrons to become positive ions. The more reactive a metal is, the more it is able to force its excess electrons onto another atom. This helps us understand why the reactivity series is in the order it is. The most reactive metals are Group 1; one outermost electron is easy for alkali metals to lose. The next most reactive metals are in Group 2; two outermost electrons. After this, the pattern becomes more complicated, but the reactivity series is all about the electrons.

Match these part equations to make complete chemical reactions.

Column A

Column B

copper sulfate + zinc →
zinc sulfate + copper
aluminium nitrate + magnesium →
copper nitrate + silver
silver nitrate + copper →
aluminium oxide + iron
iron oxide + aluminium →
magnesium nitrate + aluminium

Look at these pairs of reactants. Tick the pairs which would lead to a chemical reaction.

copper sulfate + magnesium

iron chloride + copper

iron oxide + aluminium

silver nitrate + gold

Which of these pairs of chemicals show a chemical reaction? Tick the pairs which would show a change.

iron oxide + magnesium

magnesium chloride + copper

aluminium sulfate + copper

copper sulfate + aluminium

gold chloride + silver

The names of metals in this question aren't real. This question is about working out a reactivity series, not remembering or using the one you know.

Imagine you have three metals; kelsium, dovium and carpentinium. When you test their displacement reactions, you get these results;

kelsium chloride + dovium does not change

kelsium chloride + carpentinium → carpentinium chloride + kelsium

dovium chloride +  carpentinium →carpentinium chloride + dovium

Use this information to work out the reactivity series for kelsium, dovium and carpentinium.

iron oxide + magnesium

magnesium chloride + copper

aluminium sulfate + copper

copper sulfate + aluminium

gold chloride + silver

Copper sulfate is CuSO4, aluminium sulfate is Al2(SO4)3.

Add numbers to balance the symbol equation for copper sulfate + aluminium → aluminium sulfate + copper.

iron oxide + magnesium

magnesium chloride + copper

aluminium sulfate + copper

copper sulfate + aluminium

gold chloride + silver

Which group of the periodic table contains the most reactive metals?

Choose the correct way (or ways) to finish this sentence:

"Compared with less reactive metals, more reactive metals..."

are more likely to form compounds.

lose electrons more easily.

gain electrons more easily.

are less likely to form compounds.

Think about this reaction:

CuSO4 + Fe → FeSO4 + Cu

Select the two correct ionic equations for this process.

are more likely to form compounds.

lose electrons more easily.

gain electrons more easily.

are less likely to form compounds.

Think about this reaction:

Fe2O3 + 2 Al → Al2O3 + 2 Fe

Select the two correct ionic equations for this process.

are more likely to form compounds.

lose electrons more easily.

gain electrons more easily.

are less likely to form compounds.

In this reaction

Cu2+ + 2e- → Cu

is copper oxidised or reduced?

oxidised

reduced

  • Question 1

Match these part equations to make complete chemical reactions.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

copper sulfate + zinc →
zinc sulfate + copper
aluminium nitrate + magnesium ...
magnesium nitrate + aluminium
silver nitrate + copper →
copper nitrate + silver
iron oxide + aluminium →
aluminium oxide + iron
EDDIE SAYS
All these displacement reactions happen. The point is to get used to the pattern of these word equations. Think of them as "metal compound + metal makes metal compound + metal"; it's easier to imagine the metals swapping places (if that's what they do).
  • Question 2

Look at these pairs of reactants. Tick the pairs which would lead to a chemical reaction.

CORRECT ANSWER
copper sulfate + magnesium
iron oxide + aluminium
EDDIE SAYS
Compare the reactivities of the metal in the compound and the one in metallic form. If the pure metal is more reactive, it will displace the other metal from the compound, so a reaction will happen.
  • Question 3

Which of these pairs of chemicals show a chemical reaction? Tick the pairs which would show a change.

CORRECT ANSWER
iron oxide + magnesium
copper sulfate + aluminium
gold chloride + silver
EDDIE SAYS
Magnesium is more reactive than iron, so magnesium goes into the compound. Copper is less reactive than magnesium, so it cannot go into the compound. The same idea works for the other three examples.
  • Question 4

The names of metals in this question aren't real. This question is about working out a reactivity series, not remembering or using the one you know.

Imagine you have three metals; kelsium, dovium and carpentinium. When you test their displacement reactions, you get these results;

kelsium chloride + dovium does not change

kelsium chloride + carpentinium → carpentinium chloride + kelsium

dovium chloride +  carpentinium →carpentinium chloride + dovium

Use this information to work out the reactivity series for kelsium, dovium and carpentinium.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
Carpentinium always forms a compound, so must be the most reactive. Dovium never forms a compound, so must be the least reactive. Kelsium is displaced by carpentinium, but not by dovium, so must have middle reactivity. You will get exam questions were you don\'t recognise the names; the best thing to do is ignore this, and think what general rules apply.
  • Question 5

Copper sulfate is CuSO4, aluminium sulfate is Al2(SO4)3.

Add numbers to balance the symbol equation for copper sulfate + aluminium → aluminium sulfate + copper.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
To make one unit of Al2(SO4)3, we need 2 units of Al and 3 units of SO4. To get 3 units of SO4, we need 3 units of CuSO4, so we produce 3 units of Cu.
  • Question 6

Which group of the periodic table contains the most reactive metals?

CORRECT ANSWER
1
one
EDDIE SAYS
The alkali metals are the most reactive, because they need to lose one electron only. For the same reason, they are all in Group 1 of the periodic table.
  • Question 7

Choose the correct way (or ways) to finish this sentence:

"Compared with less reactive metals, more reactive metals..."

CORRECT ANSWER
are more likely to form compounds.
lose electrons more easily.
EDDIE SAYS
When metals form compounds, they lose electrons to form ions. The more reactive the metal is, the more this happens.
  • Question 8

Think about this reaction:

CuSO4 + Fe → FeSO4 + Cu

Select the two correct ionic equations for this process.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The iron atom loses electrons to become an iron ion, and the copper ion gains electrons to become a copper atom.
  • Question 9

Think about this reaction:

Fe2O3 + 2 Al → Al2O3 + 2 Fe

Select the two correct ionic equations for this process.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
When you do equations like this, make sure that the electrons balance between the two equations. Every 2 atoms of Al involve the transfer of six electrons.
  • Question 10

In this reaction

Cu2+ + 2e- → Cu

is copper oxidised or reduced?

CORRECT ANSWER
reduced
EDDIE SAYS
When a metal ion gains electrons (so it's turned into an atom), we say it's reduced.
---- OR ----

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