In chemistry, not all metals are equally active. They have different levels of reactivity, meaning they reduce or oxidize (gain or lose electrons) at different rates. During our lab, we observed single replacement reactions, which are simultaneously redox reactions. Single replacement reactions occur when a one element is replaced by another in a compound, while redox reactions are oxidation reduction reactions where electron charges change throughout the equation. The transfer of electrons in single replacement reactions classify them as a type of redox reaction.
Of the metals tested, they rank as follows from most reactive to least reactive: magnesium (Mg2+ + 2e- = Mg(s) ), zinc (Zn2+ + 2e- = Z(s) ), copper (Cu2+ + 2e- = Cu(s) ), silver (Ag+ + e- = Ag(s) ), iron (Fe2+ + 2e- = Fe(s) ), with silver and iron having no reactivity whatsoever in the lab. There is a direct correlation between the observed reactivity and the reduction potential listed. The reactivity of a metal is dependent on how well said metal oxidizes. The most reactive metals are the lowest on the reduction potential chart because they oxidize (lose electrons) easily, while the least reactive metals are the highest on the reduction chart because they reduce (gain electrons) easily. The redox half reactions for each metal are below.
Sources: Lab notebook, Standard Reduction Potentials equation sheet, notes