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Metal reactivity series

Metal Reactivity Series

Below has been excerpted from Compound Chemistry

Student handout: Reactivity Series of Metals (PDF)

…This graphic places a selection of common metals into order of reactivity, as well as showing their reactions with air, water and steam.

Metals have a range of reactivities:
The classic alkali metals in water demonstration

The reactivity series offers a ranking of the metals in order of their reactivity.
Group 1 metals head up the rankings.
Closely followed by the marginally less reactive group 2 metals.
Transition metals are much less reactive
Gold and platinum have little in the way of chemical reaction.

* predict the outcome of certain chemical reactions.

If a metal compound reacts with a metal that’s above it in the reactivity series, a displacement reaction will occur.
The more reactive metal will take the place of the less reactive metal in the compound.
Conversely, if we react a metal with another metal lower in the series, no reaction will take place.

Copper sulfate + zinc → zinc sulfate + copper

Magnesium sulfate + zinc → NO REACTION

The reactivity series also gives us an insight into why different metals are extracted from their ores in different ways.
Carbon and hydrogen are also shoehorned in between entries in the list, despite being non-metals.
This is because they can react with the compounds in metal ores, and displace the metals, aiding with their extraction.

Some metals are so unreactive they occur largely uncombined with other elements, simple to obtain.

Majority of metals occur naturally in compounds, which we must remove them from.

* This graphic doesn’t contain every metal in the periodic table.

* Some caveats: for example, aluminium will react slowly with water, if the thin aluminium oxide layer that prevents it from reacting is damaged.



  1. […] I have seen a variety of reactivity series of elements online and also have consulted some books regarding the arrangement of the elements. I understand that the arrangement of elements is based on degree of reactivity of elements with cold water, steam, oxygen, dilute acids etc. Lithium is less reactive with respect to the criteria mentioned above yet it is placed on the top of more reactive elements in the reactivity series that I have observed. What is the reason for the position of Lithium above let us say potassium and sodium which are more reactive. Link to one of the references: https://kaiserscience.wordpress.com/chemistry/metal-reactivity-series/ […]

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  2. […] The reactivity series. Image credit wordpress.com […]


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