Devarda's alloy is used in the detection of nitrates. However, judging by the reaction equation, only aluminium plays the role of reducer:

$$\ce{3NaNO3 + 8Al + 5NaOH + 18H2O -> 8Na[Al(OH)4] + 3NH3(g)}$$

Why does it contain copper? Is copper also capable of acting as a reducer here?

I know that zinc, the third component, is capable of that.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Galvanic couple, I guess. $\endgroup$ – Ivan Neretin May 25 '16 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ Catalyst, I guess. ;-) $\endgroup$ – aventurin May 25 '16 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ Blessed be the guessers, for they lead us to understanding. $\endgroup$ – CowperKettle May 26 '16 at 6:13

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