How does a metal's relative resistance to oxidation relate to its position in the reactivity series?

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    – airhuff
    May 29 '17 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ I have edited my post and removed excess information $\endgroup$
    – AJ123
    Jun 3 '17 at 11:57

The oxidation series is a means by which one can order elements as to how easily they are oxidized or reduced. In the attached picture, we see the blue arrow- "Ease of oxidation increases." What this means is, as you go up the series, from gold up to lithium, elements are more easily oxidized, or they lose their electrons more easily. This is equivalent to their being a better reducing agent. Now, lithium is first on our table. What this means is that, out of all the elements on this specific series that I chose to include, lithium loses electrons the best. You may be wondering why hydrogen is included in this list. Well, hydrogen appears in many single replacement reactions, such as $\ce{Zn}+2\ce{HCl} \ce{->}\ce{ZnCl2}+\ce{H2}$. In this reaction, we see that zinc has replaced hydrogen's position. Now, looking at the activity series, we see that zinc is indeed more easily oxidized than hydrogen. This is the basis for single-replacement reactions. To determine a single-replacement reaction's viability, we see if it is possible for the lone reactant to replace the bonded reactant by each determining their relative reactivities. These are also in the category of redox reactions. To answer your question specifically, as we go up (or down, depending on the chart) the activity series, the ability for an element to be oxidized is increased (or decreased, again, depending on the chart). Now you may wonder why these elements are arranged in such a way: there is no rhyme or reason. That's just how it is. I highly recommend against memorizing the position of every single element on the series, or even more than 5. What you should do is know that the group 1 and 2 elements are very easy to oxidize, and the typical "jewelry metals" are the hardest to oxidize. Indeed, we see applications of this in the real world. In cars, there are apparati called catalytic converters. These typically have platinum components, due to the low reactivity of platinum. Gold is used in many microwaves, within the emitter, again, due to its unreactivity (among other things).

In short, it depends on which table you use.

The activity series I was referring to:

enter image description here


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