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Reactivity Series

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Metals are extracted from ores that are mined from the Earths crust. The method of extraction depends on the chemical reactivity of each metal. About 80 of the elements are metals. They are to the left and in the center of the periodic table. All metals are shiny solids at room temperature except mercury which is a liquid.


Metals are malleable and ductile, this means they can be hammered or stretched into different shapes. They are also good conductors of heat and electricity because their outermost electrons can move from one atom to the next. Not all the metals react in the same way with water and hydrochloric acid. Some metals react very vigorously and fast. Others react slowly. Some metals do not react at all.


The reactivity series can be used to predict chemical reactions. For example, the metal barium is between calcium and sodium in the series. The position of a metal in the reactivity series is important in the displacement reactions of metals and in the extraction of metals.

Reactivity Chemistry Definition

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"The reactivity series is a measure of how readily metal atoms give up electrons to form positive ions. The "higher up" the metal is, the more readily it forms positive ions."
The reactivity series lists the common metals in order of reactivity. The most reactive metals are normally at the top of the list. Nonmetals carbon and hydrogen are often included in the list to give a comparison of their reactivities.

The reactivity series compares the reactivity of metals. Metals "high up" in the series are very reactive. Metals low down in the series are not very reactive.

Metal Reactivity Series

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The metal reactivity series lists metals in order of general chemical reactivity. Metals generally react by losing electrons to form positive ions. The more readily a metal loses electrons the more reactive it is - and the greater its strength as a reductant.

Metals higher up the series can reduce the ions of those lower down. The standard electrode potential of a metal also indicates its strength as a reductant. The more negative the value of the standard electrode potential of a metal, the greater is its strength as a reductant.

To get the metal out of the ore we need to decompose the compound in the ore to release the pure metal. There are a number of different ways in which the metal may be extracted from its ore. The method used will depend on how reactive the metal is - in other words on its place in the reactivity series.

Reactivity Series

The Reactivity Series of Metals is shown below.

The reactivity series lists the metals in order of their reactivity, with the most reactive at the top and the least reactive at the bottom. A more reactive metal will displace a less reactive metal from its compounds. Also the two nonmetals carbon and hydrogen will also displace less reactive from their oxides.

Reactivity Series Chart

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The electrochemical or reactivity series lists metals and non metals according to their reactivity as reducing agents and oxidizing agent respectively. Metals form positive ions by electrons loss and can therefore act as reducing agents, while non metals form anions by gaining electrons and can therefore act as oxidizing agents.

In the reactivity series metals are placed in order of decreasing reactivity of reducing agents, while non metals are placed in the increasing reactivity as oxidizing agents.

 Reactivity Series Chart