In a reactivity series, the most reactive element is placed at the top and the least reactive element at the bottom. More reactive metals have a greater tendency to lose electrons and form positive ions.
A good way to remember the order of a reactivity series of metals is to use the first letter of each one to make up a silly sentence. For example: People Say Little Children Make A Zebra Ill Constantly Sniffing Giraffes.
Observations of the way that these elements react with water, acids and steam enable us to put them into this series.
The tables show how the elements react with water and dilute acids:
|Element||Reaction with water|
|Element||Reaction with dilute acids|
|Iron||More slowly than zinc|
|Gold||Does not react|
The speed at which hydrogen bubbles are produced tells us how reactive a metal is with acid. The quicker the fizzing, the more reactive the metal.
Note that aluminium can be difficult to place in the correct position in the reactivity series during these experiments. This is because its protective aluminium oxide layer makes it appear to be less reactive than it really is. When this layer is removed, the observations are more reliable.
It is useful to place carbon and hydrogen into the reactivity series because these elements can be used to extract metals.
Here is the reactivity series including carbon and hydrogen: