Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!
Print

Science

Group 1 properties

Reaction with cold water

All the alkali metals react vigorously with cold water. In each reaction, hydrogen gas is given off and the metal hydroxide is produced. The speed and violence of the reaction increases as you go down the group. This shows that the reactivity of the alkali metals increases as you go down Group 1.

Lithium

When lithium is added to water, lithium floats. It fizzes steadily and becomes smaller, until it eventually disappears.

lithium + water → lithium hydroxide + hydrogen

2Li(s) + 2H2O(l) → 2LiOH(aq) + H2(g)

Sodium

When sodium is added to water, the sodium melts to form a ball that moves around on the surface. It fizzes rapidly, and the hydrogen produced may burn with an orange flame before the sodium disappears.

sodium + water → sodium hydroxide + hydrogen

2Na(s) + 2H2O(l) → 2NaOH(aq) + H2(g)

Potassium

When potassium is added to water, the metal melts and floats. It moves around very quickly on the surface of the water. The hydrogen ignites instantly. The metal is also set on fire, with sparks and a lilac flame. There is sometimes a small explosion at the end of the reaction.

potassium + water → potassium hydroxide + hydrogen

2K(s) + 2H2O(l) → 2KOH(aq) + H2(g)

Strong alkalis

The hydroxides formed in all of these reactions dissolve in water to form alkaline solutions. These solutions turn universal indicator purple, showing they are strongly alkaline. Strong alkalis are corrosive, so care must be taken when they are used - for example, by using goggles and gloves.

Back to Chemical patterns index

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.