AQA GCSE Chemistry

Revision Notes

4.1.3 Extraction of Metals & Reduction

Extraction of Metals & Reduction

  • The Earth’s crust contains metals and metal compounds such as gold, copper, iron oxide and aluminium oxide
  • Useful metals are often chemically combined with other substances forming ores
  • A metal ore is a rock that contains enough of the metal to make it worthwhile extracting
  • They have to be extracted from their ores through processes such as electrolysis, using a blast furnace or by reacting with more reactive material
  • In many cases the ore is an oxide of the metal, therefore the extraction of these metals is a reduction process since oxygen is being removed
  • Common examples of oxide ores are iron and aluminium ores which are called haematite and bauxite respectively
  • Unreactive metals do not have to be extracted chemically as they are often found as the uncombined element
  • This occurs as they do not easily react with other substances due to their chemical stability
  • Examples include gold and platinum which can both be mined directly from the Earth’s crust

Exam Tip

A metal can reduce another metal (remove oxygen) only if it is more reactive than the metal that is bonded to the oxygen.

Extraction of metals and the reactivity series

  • The most reactive metals are at the top of the series
  • The tendency to become oxidised is thus linked to how reactive a metal is and therefore its position on the reactivity series
  • Metals higher up are therefore less resistant to oxidation than the metals placed lower down which are more resistant to oxidation
  • The position of the metal on the reactivity series determines the method of extraction
  • Higher placed metals (above carbon) have to be extracted using electrolysis as they are too reactive and cannot be reduced by carbon
  • Lower placed metals can be extracted by heating with carbon which reduces them

Metals Extraction Method Table

The reactivity series and extraction of metals table, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes

The extraction method depends on the position of a metal in the reactivity series

Exam Tip

Make sure you can explain why aluminium is extracted by electrolysis while iron is extracted by reduction as it is a question that often comes up.

Author: Francesca

Fran has taught A level Chemistry in the UK for over 10 years. As head of science, she used her passion for education to drive improvement for staff and students, supporting them to achieve their full potential. Fran has also co-written science textbooks and worked as an examiner for UK exam boards.
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