University of Edinburgh

BSL Chemistry Glossary Laboratory video - reactivity series

Note: this is a very long movie so please allow it time to load.

Video: I will explain what the reactivity series is. There are many different metals. I've chosen two to show you. The first is iron (Fe) and the second magnesium (Mg). We will find out how reactive these two metals are. We will burn bits of each metal in the Bunsen flame.

First I'll show you iron (Fe). This iron is in powder form. It's not a piece of metal we can bend – it's iron powder. Watch when I put the metal powder into the flame. First I'll change the Bunsen flame to blue. We can just see it shimmering.

I'll do it again. You could see a shower of little stars. The iron reacted with the oxygen from the air. It's quite reactive. Now we'll have a look at magnesium which is in a coil. I need to clean it first. It’s shiny now. I'll put it in the flame. Wow, it's very bright!

So magnesium is much more reactive than iron. The reactivity series is like a scale with the most reactive at the top and the least reactive at the bottom. Magnesium burnt with a bright white light whereas iron burnt with little stars. They are at different places on the reactivity series.