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Big Manny GCSE Science Experiment: Displacement

Watch Big Manny’s experiment as he shows displacement using magnesium, copper and iron sulphate.

What is displacement?

Displacement is defined to be the change in position of an object.


Displacement experiment with magnesium, copper and iron sulfate

Here I have three different metals, I have some magnesium metal, some copper and some zinc. Magnesium is the most reactive of all of them, so it’s able to displace the other metals when they’re in their compounds.

For example, I have some copper sulfate here and we’re going to add some magnesium metal to the copper sulfate to see what happens.

Straight away we can see a lot of bubbling and fizzing taking place, and some effervescence. The reason why is because the magnesium is more reactive than the copper, so it’s able to displace the copper metal in copper sulfate to form magnesium sulfate.

As the magnesium sulfate is being formed the copper is being precipitated out of the solution and we can see some brown solid form there and that’s the solid copper metal that is being displaced.

Now I have some magnesium sulfate. I’m going to add some copper to the magnesium sulfate and see if the reaction takes place.

Let’s put the copper in the magnesium sulfate. Right so we can see that there is no reaction taking place between the magnesium sulfate and the copper metal, and the reason why is because copper is less reactive than magnesium, so it’s unable to displace magnesium and magnesium sulfate, so that’s why no reaction occurs.

Here I have some iron sulfate, I’m going to add some zinc metal to the iron sulfate and see what happens. We could see a few bubbles being formed here to build effervescence. Now the reason why we can see bubbles is because the zinc metal is displaced in the iron, in iron sulfate that forms zinc sulfate and that’s because zinc is more reactive than the iron.

All of these metals can be organised according to their reactivity, this is known as the reactivity series. So the most reactive is magnesium, followed by zinc and then iron and lastly we have copper.

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