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LAB in Observations, Chemical Change, Net Ionic Equation, Reduction, Activity Series, Redox Reaction, Oxidation. Last updated February 19, 2020.


In this lab, students will practice writing and balancing redox reactions and use the activity series to verify the outcome of a chemical reaction.

Grade Level

High School

NGSS Alignment

This activity will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • HS-PS1-2: Construct and revise an explanation for the outcome of a simple chemical reaction based on the outermost electron states of atoms, trends in the periodic table, and knowledge of the patterns of chemical properties.


By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Predict the products of a reaction on the basis of the activity series.
  • Write balanced redox half reactions and net ionic equations.

Chemistry Topics

This lesson supports students’ understanding of:

  • Activity series
  • Chemical changes
  • Oxidation
  • Reduction
  • Net ionic equations


Teacher Preparation: 15 minutes

Lesson: 45 minutes


  • Copper(II) chloride, CuCl2, 5 g
  • Balance
  • Sodium chloride, NaCl, 5 g
  • Aluminum foil, 10 1-in square pieces
  • Water, 100 ml
  • Beaker (2)
  • Graduated cylinder
  • Scoopula (2)


  • Always wear safety goggles when working in a lab.
  • Copper(II) chloride is toxic. Wear gloves when handling copper(II) chloride.
  • Students should wash their hands thoroughly before leaving the lab.
  • When students complete the lab, instruct them how to clean up their materials and dispose of any chemicals.

Teacher Notes

  • Students should have experience with writing and balancing chemical equations, redox reactions, half reactions, net ionic equations, and the activity series prior to doing this lab.
  • Students will quickly see that the aluminum reacts with the copper(II) chloride solution. Evidence of this is the appearance of copper metal, the production of heat, and the formation of a gas (below left, middle). They will not see a reaction between the aluminum and the sodium chloride (below right).

  • Activity series for metals, can be provided for analysis questions:


Li --> Li+ + e


K --> K+ + e


Ba --> Ba2+ + 2 e


Sr --> Sr2+ + 2 e


Ca --> Ca2+ + 2 e


Na --> Na+ + e


Mg --> Mg2+ + 2 e


Al --> Al3+ + 3 e


Mn --> Mn2+ + 2 e


Zn --> Zn2+ + 2 e


Cr --> Cr3+ + 3 e


Fe --> Fe2+ + 2 e


Co --> Co2+ + 2 e


Ni --> Ni2+ + 2 e


Sn --> Sn2+ + 2 e


Pb --> Pb2+ + 2 e


H2 --> 2 H+ + 2 e


Cu --> Cu2+ + 2 e


Ag --> Ag+ + e


Hg --> Hg2+ + 2 e


Pt --> Pt2+ + 2 e


Au --> Au3+ + 3 e

For the Student



Electrochemical reactions are driven by the spontaneous transfer of electrons from more active metals to less active ones. In this lab you will investigate the electrochemical replacement of aluminum atoms by Cu2+ and Na+.


To observe reactions between aqueous solutions and metals to develop a deeper understanding of the activity series and redox reactions.


  • Always wear safety goggles when working in a lab setting.
  • Copper(II) chloride is toxic. Wear gloves when handling copper(II) chloride. When you are finished, dispose of all copper(II) chloride in designated containers.


  • Copper(II) chloride, CuCl2, 5 g
  • Balance
  • Sodium chloride, NaCl, 5 g
  • Aluminum foil, 10 1-in pieces
  • Water, 100 ml
  • Beaker (2)
  • Graduated cylinder
  • Scoopula, (2)


1. Mass about 5 g of copper(II) chloride in a small beaker.
2. Mass about 5 g of sodium chloride in a second small beaker.
3. Use graduated cylinder to add 50 mL water to each beaker.
4. Swirl to dissolve the solid copper(II) chloride and sodium chloride.
5. Get about 10 1-inch square pieces of aluminum foil.
6. Make observations about the solutions and foil.
7. Put 4 or 5 aluminum foil pieces into each beaker. Observe what happens.


Chemical Before adding Al After adding Al
Copper(II) chloride
Sodium chloride


  1. Describe what happened in each beaker – did a reaction occur? What evidence led you to your conclusions?
  2. From your knowledge of the activity series, explain your results. Make reference to each beaker in this explanation.

For questions 3–7, consider the reaction between copper(II) chloride and aluminum.

  1. Write the general skeleton reaction.
  2. Write the balanced reduction half reaction.
  3. Write the balanced oxidation half reaction.
  4. Write the balanced net ionic equation.
  5. Write the full balanced redox reaction.

  1. Give an example of another metal and/or salt that would result in a reaction.
  2. For the example used in number 8, write the balanced redox equation to show the chemistry that occurred between your choices. Indicate the oxidation states and half reactions.