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Secondary 3 Notes 13
Topic 13 Properties of Metals

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Introduction
Reactive metals can be found in Group I (Alkali metals) and Group II (Alkaline Earth metals) of the
Periodic Table. Transition metals are less reactive and are found between Group II and Group III.
Other less reactive metals (Al, Ga, In, Sn, Tl, Pb, Bi, Po) can be located on the right of the transition
metals. Metals are lustrous (shiny surface) and solids at room temperature except for mercury (the
only liquid metal).

Figure 1: Basic structure of a metal

Metallic Bonds
-

Atoms in metals are packed very closely in an orderly arrangement.


Each atom loses its valence electron(s) to become a positive ion.
Metallic bonding is the electrostatic attraction between these positively charged ions and
the negatively charged valence electrons.
Lattice structure of positive ions floating in a sea of electrons.

Physical Properties
1. Metals are good conductors of electricity in both solid and molten states.
-

Electrical conductivity due to the mobile electrons

2. Metals are good conductors of heat.


-

Metal atoms are closely packed so heat energy can be easily transferred from one atom
to another by vibrations.

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3. Most metals have a high boiling points and melting points.


-

Lots of energy required to break the strong metallic bond in the giant metallic lattice.
Except Group I Alkaline metals (low boiling and melting points)

4. Most metals have a high density.


-

Metallic atoms are arranged in a regular and closely packed manner to form a giant 3D
crystal lattice.
Except Group I Alkaline metals (low density).

5. Metals are malleable and ductile.


-

Malleable: ability to be hammered or pressed without breaking.


Ductile: ability to be drawn into wires.
Metallic bonds are strong but not rigid so when a force is applied, layers of atoms can
slide over one another.

Force Applied

Figure 2: Sliding of layers of atoms

6. Alloys are mixtures of metals.


-

The orderly arrangement of atoms is disrupted by a few atoms of another metal because
their atoms are of a different size.
So the layers can no longer slide over each other easily.
This makes alloys harder and stronger than pure metals (pure metals are weaker and
softer).
Some alloys do not contain metals & contain carbon instead.
3 common alloys are :
(a) Brass (zinc + copper)
(b) Bronze (tin + copper)
(c) Steel (iron + carbon)

Figure 3: Structure of an Alloy

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Reactivity Series
1. Metals differ in reactivity and can be placed in order of reactivity in an order known as the
Reactivity Series:
Most reactive
Potassium (K)
Sodium (Na)
Metal
becomes
more
reactive

Calcium (Ca)
Magnesium (Mg)
Aluminium (Al)
Zinc (Zn)
Iron (Fe)
Tin (Sn)
Lead (Pb)
[Hydrogen (H)]
Copper (Cu)
Silver (Ag)

Least reactive
2. The higher the position of the metal in the Reactivity Series,
-

the greater the reactivity.


the more readily it is to lose electrons.
the more readily it is to form positive ions (cations).
the stronger it is as a reducing agent.

3. Hydrogen is often placed in the reactivity series although it is not a metal.


4. Metals above hydrogen displace hydrogen from solutions of acids.
5. Reactivity of metals with water and acids corresponds to their positions in the Reactivity Series.

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Chemical Properties
1. Reaction with water/steam

Metal + Water Metal Oxide + Hydrogen gas


(insoluble)
If the metal oxide is soluble in water, a metal hydroxide will be formed.
Metal + Water Metal Hydroxide + Hydrogen gas
(soluble)

Metal
Potassium (K)
Sodium (Na)
Calcium (Ca)

Reaction with water/steam


Equation
Explodes with cold water
2K + 2H2O 2KOH + H2
Explodes with cold water
2Na + 2H2O 2NaOH + H2
Reacts quickly with cold water
Ca + 2H2O Ca(OH)2 + H2
Almost no reaction with cold water
Magnesium (Mg)
Mg + H2O MgO + H2
Heated magnesium burns in steam
No reaction with cold water
Zinc (Zn)
Zn + H2O ZnO + H2
Heated zinc burns in steam
No reaction with cold water
Iron (Fe)
3Fe + 4H2O Fe3O4 + 4H2
Red-hot iron reacts slowly with steam
Copper (Cu)
No reaction with water or steam
Silver (Ag)

2. Reaction with air (oxygen)

Metal + O2 Metal Oxide


(basic/amphoteric)

Other than reacting with water, Group I and Group II metals can also be oxidised in air to form
basic oxides which react with acids to form salts. For example 2Mg + O2 2MgO (dazzling
white light).
Metals can also form amphoteric oxides like Al2O3 and ZnO which can react with both acids and
bases to form salts too.
Aluminium, when left exposed to air, forms a thin protective coat of oxide (Al2O3) which doesnt
flake off (unlike iron oxide). This oxide causes aluminium to be less reactive when compared to
magnesium, calcium, sodium & potassium.

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3. Reaction with acids


Metal + Dilute Acid Metal Salt + H2 gas

Metal + Concentrated Acid Metal Salt + Water + Gas (not H2)

Metal
Potassium (K)
Sodium (Na)
Calcium (Ca)
Magnesium (Mg)
Zinc (Zn)
Iron (Fe)
Copper (Cu)
Silver (Ag)

Reaction with acids


Explosive
Explosive
Reacts quickly, lots of bubbles
Reacts quickly, lots of bubbles
Reacts quickly but less vigorous
Reacts slowly in cold acid
Reacts quickly when heated
No reaction
No reaction

Equation (with HCl)


2K + 2HCl 2KCl + H2
2Na + 2HCl 2NaCl + H2
Ca + 2HCl CaCl2 + H2
Mg + 2HCl MgCl2 + H2
Zn + 2HCl ZnCl2 + H2
Fe + 2HCl FeCl2 + H2
-

(i)

H2 gas is produced when metals (except copper & silver) react with water, steam or
acids.

(ii)

Ionic equations are similar e.g. 2Na + 2H+ 2Na+ + H2

(iii)

Copper can only react with concentrated acids (no H2 produced)


e.g. Cu + 4HNO3 Cu(NO3)2 +2NO2 + 2H2O

4. Displacement Reactions
(i)

A more reactive metal can displace a less reactive metal from its compounds i.e. a
metal higher up the reactivity series can displace a metal lower down the series.

(ii)

The more reactive the metal, the higher the tendency to lose electrons and form
positive ions (cations).

(iii)

For example, if a piece of grey zinc is dipped into a solution of CuSO4,


- grey zinc will dissolve
- brown solid (Cu) will deposit
- blue solution of CuSO4 will turn into colourless ZnSO4
zinc + copper (II) sulphate  zinc sulphate + copper
Zn (s) +
CuSO4 (aq)

ZnSO4 (aq) + Cu (s)
(Zn is more reactive than Cu)
Ionic Equation:

Zn

Cu2+

Zn2+

+ Cu

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5. Reduction of metal oxides

Metal

Reduction of metal oxides with


Hydrogen
Carbon

Potassium (K)
Sodium (Na)
No reduction
No reduction
Calcium (Ca)
Magnesium (Mg)
Zinc (Zn)
Metal oxide reduced
Iron (Fe)
Metal oxide reduced
to form metal + CO2
Copper (Cu)
to form metal + H2O
Silver (Ag)

(i)

There is an increasing ease of reduction of metal oxides down the Reactivity Series.

(ii)

A more reactive metal is able to remove the oxygen from the oxide of a less reactive
metal. For example: PbO (s) + Mg (s) MgO (s) + Pb (s)

6. Thermal decomposition of metal carbonates

Metal
Potassium (K)
Sodium (Na)
Calcium (Ca)
Magnesium (Mg)
Zinc (Zn)
Iron (Fe)
Copper (Cu)
Silver (Ag)

Action of heat on metal carbonate


No thermal decomposition

Metal carbonate decomposed


to form metal oxide + CO2
Metal carbonate decomposed
to form metal + O2 + CO2

(i)

Thermal stability of carbonates decreases down the Reactivity Series

(ii)

Green CuCO3 decomposes easily on heating to black CuO and CO2.


CuCO3 (s) CuO (s) + CO2 (g)

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