If you like us, please share us on social media, tell your friends, tell your professor or consider building or adopting a Wikitext for your course.

ChemWiki: The Dynamic Chemistry Hypertext > Under Construction > Demonstrations > Additional Demos > Displacement Reactions of Zinc and Copper Metal

Displacement Reactions of Zinc and Copper Metal

Chemical Concept Demonstrated

  • Oxidation/reduction reactions between metals and metal ions


  • In the first beaker half-filled with 0.1M CuSO4 solution, zinc metal is added.
  • In the second beaker half-filled with 0.1M ZnSO4 solution, copper metal is added.
  • Iron metal is immerse in the 0.1M CuSO4 solution.


  • The zinc metal is coated with dark-black elemental copper.  The copper metal, however, has no reaction with the ZnSO4 solution. 
  • The iron metal is coated with red-bronze metallic copper.

Explanations (including important chemical equations)

Zn (s) + CuSO4 (aq) ----> Cu (s) + ZnSO4 (aq)
stronger reducing agent   stronger oxidizing agent   weaker reducing agent   weaker oxidizing agent

Cu (s) + ZnSO4 (aq) ---> Zn (s) + CuSO4 (aq)

Fe (s) + CuSO4 (aq) ---> Cu (s) + FeSO4 (aq)

Oxidation occurs when the oxidation number of an atom becomes larger.  Reduction occurs when the oxidation number of an atom becomes smaller. Oxidizing agents gain electrons while reducing agents lose electrons.  Generally, when metals are fully reduced, they form elemental metal and "plate" the site where they were reduced.

In the first reaction, the copper ion is able to oxidize the zinc metal.  However, in the second reaction, the zinc ion is not able to oxidize the copper metal.   Zinc is a better reducing agent than copper.  Strong reducing agents have weak conjugate oxidizing agents.  Zn2+ is a weak conjugate oxidizing agent compared to Cu2+.  Conversely, strong oxidizing agents have weak conjugate reducing agents. The second reaction did not occur because the reactants were the weaker reducing and oxidizing agents.  In the third reaction, iron is a better reducing agent than copper, however iron is not as good as zinc.


You must to post a comment.
Last modified
13:23, 31 Jan 2014



(not set)
(not set)
(not set)






This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Numbers 1246120, 1525057, and 1413739.

Creative Commons License Unless otherwise noted, content in the UC Davis ChemWiki is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at copyright@ucdavis.edu. Questions and concerns can be directed toward Prof. Delmar Larsen (dlarsen@ucdavis.edu), Founder and Director. Terms of Use