Thermal Decomposition of Metal carbonates

Essay by jonyCollege, UndergraduateB, March 2004

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The aim of this experiment is to determine the order of the reactivity series by investigating the thermal breakdown of metal carbonates.


When a metal is thermally decomposed the bond between the metal and its carbonate (carbon and oxygen) is removed and the carbonate is released as cerbon dioxide. The reactivity series determines how fast this reaction occurs. The reactivity series is the order metals in the periodic table. The most reactive metals are placed at the top of the reactivity series. The least reactive materials are placed at the bottom of the reactivity series. From preliminary work that I have already done I know that Potassium and sodium are the most reactive metals, and that gold and platinum are the least reactive metals. To determine the order of how reactive a metal is and where to place it in the reactivity series you have to see how the metal reacts to:

? Oxygen (air)

? Water

? Acid

When metals are heated they react with oxygen in the air.

As the metal is heated it reacts with the oxygen to form an oxide. The most reactive metals such as potassium and sodium burn brightly as they are heated. The less reactive metals do not burn brightly, and take longer to form their oxide. With some metals there is no reaction at all. These are the metals at the bottom of the reactivity series, such as gold. Also the most reactive metals form their oxide much quicker than the less reactive metals. This type of reaction is called an oxidation reaction, because the metal gains an oxygen.

The formula for the reaction with air is:

Metal + Oxygen = Metal Oxide

Metals can also be placed in water to see how they react. Again the extremely...