The Activity Series

The activity series lists elements in their order of strength as oxidizers or reducers. This is what determines if a reaction will or will not occur.

Example:

activity1

Element Oxidization Number BEFORE Oxidization Number AFTER
Mg 0 +2
Cl -1 -1

Q: Which element was oxidized and why?
A: Magnesium because its charge increased from 0 to +2.

Q: Which element was reduced and why?
A: Hydrogen because its charge decreased from +1 to 0.

Q: What is the oxidizing agent?
A: H was reduced, making it an oxidizing agent (it oxidized Mg).

Q: What is the reducing agent?
A: Mg was oxidized, making it a reducing agent (it reduced H).

Q: Does this reaction make sense according to the activity series?
A: Yes; Since Mg is listed above H in the activity series, it makes a stronger reducer. Therefore, it makes sense that Mg would be the reducing agent.

Related Byte: Redox Reaction BasicsHow To Determine Oxidation Number, Oxidizing and Reducing Agents

The Activity Series:

Activity2

Example:

Activity3

Element Oxidization Number BEFORE Oxidization Number AFTER
Cu 0 +2
Cl -1 -1

Q: Which element was oxidized and why?
A: Copper because its charge increased from 0 to +2.

Q: Which element was reduced and why?
A: Hydrogen because its charge decreased from +1 to 0.

Q: What is the oxidizing agent?
A: H was reduced, making it an oxidizing agent (it oxidized Cu).

Q: What is the reducing agent?
A: Cu was oxidized, making it a reducing agent (it reduced H).

Q: Does this reaction make sense according to the activity series?
A: No; Since Cu is listed below H in the activity series, it means that hydrogen is actually the stronger reducer. Therefore, Cu could not possibly reduce H and this reaction would not take place.

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