Experiment 9: Electrochemistry Simulations
In this experiment you will be working with a computer simulation that covers electrochemistry,
please consider each experiment carefully, write down your observations, and answer the
questions to the best of your ability.
Part 1. Activity Series
When metals lose electrons they form metal cations, which go into solution. This process is
called oxidation. Thus we might say that Na oxidizes to Na+ when we put it in water. When a
metal oxidizes it gradually dissolves (the cation is soluble in water). When a metal cation gains
electrons (a reduction process) then the metal plates out on the surface of the reduction site.
When a metal is placed in contact with a solution of a different metal cation, the more active
metal (more easily oxidized) goes into solution. If the more active metal is already in solution as
the cation there is no observable reaction. You will look at a series of metals in contact with
solutions of other metal ions to establish an activity series, that is, a determination of which
metal is most active, next most active, etc. To access the simulation go to the web site below.
To start the simulation click on the start button and then select Activity 1. You will see four ionic
solutions. Select magnesium metal and follow the instructions on the screen. Write down your
observations (e.g. what reaction occurred) for magnesium in each of the solutions. Repeat
the procedure for copper, zinc, and silver, recording your observations each time. Use the
observations from your experiments to answer the following questions:
1. Which of the four metals you tested is the most reactive. Explain why.
2. Which of the four metals you tested is the least reactive. Explain why.
3. Arrange the metals in order of increasing reactivity (from the least reactive to the
Part 2. Electrochemical Cells
In this part of the experiment you are going to construct a zinc-copper electrochemical cell. Use
the link below to access the web site and begin by assembling a zinc-copper cell. Each half-cell
should consist of a metal electrode in contact with a solution of its ions. Check from Part 1 to
select a reaction that will give a positive cell potential, that is, a spontaneous electrochemical
reaction. The anode is the electrode at which oxidation occurs and will be negative (black wire).
The cathode is the electrode at which reduction occurs and will be positive (red wire). If you get
a negative potential when you operate your battery you have connected your electrodes up in the
wrong order. Please be sure to follow the instructions on the screen.
electrochemical cell simulation
As you are running the simulation you might want to answer the following questions:
1. Is there an electron transfer between species?
2. Which species is losing electrons?
3. Write down the half reaction for the species that is undergoing oxidation (losing
4. Which species is gaining electrons?
5. Write down the half reaction for the species that is undergoing reduction (gaining
6. Which metal is the anode?
7. Which metal is the cathode?
8. Is this a spontaneous process? Explain your reasoning.
9. Write the complete balanced equation for the reaction, that is, the sum of the two
After you have answered all the questions be sure to go to the Quizzes page to report your
experiment results to your instructor.
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