CIE IGCSE Chemistry

Revision Notes

10.1.1 Properties of Metals

Physical & Chemical Properties of Metals

Physical _ Chemical Properties of Metals table, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notes



Structure & bonding in a metal, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry & Physics revision notesDiagram showing bonding and structure in metals


General chemical properties of metals

  • The chemistry of metals is studied by analysing their reactions with water, dilute acid and oxygen
  • Based on these reactions, a reactivity series of metals can be produced

Reactivity with water

  • Some metals react with water, either warm or cold, or with steam
  • Metals that react with cold water form a metal hydroxide and hydrogen gas, for example calcium:
Ca + 2H2O → Ca(OH)2 + H2
  • Metals that react with steam form metal oxide and hydrogen gas, for example zinc:
Zn + H2O → ZnO + H2

Reactivity with acids

  • Most metals react with dilute acids such as HCl
  • When acids and metals react, the hydrogen atom in the acid is replaced by the metal atom to produce a salt and hydrogen gas, for example iron:
Fe + 2HCI → FeCl2 + H2

Reactivity with oxygen

  • Unreactive metals such as gold and copper do not react with acids
  • Some reactive metals such as the alkali metals react with oxygen
  • Copper and iron can also react with oxygen although much more slowly
  • When metals react with oxygen a metal oxide is formed, for example copper:
2Cu + O2 → 2CuO

Structure & Uses of Alloys

  • An alloy is a mixture of two or more metals or a metal and a nonmetal
  • Alloys often have properties that can be very different to the metals they contain, for example they can have more strength, hardness or resistance to corrosion or extreme temperatures
  • Alloys contain atoms of different sizes, which distorts the normally regular arrangements of atoms in metals
  • This makes it more difficult for the layers to slide over each other, so alloys are usually much harder than the pure metal


Structure of alloy, IGCSE & GCSE Chemistry revision notesThe regular arrangement of a metal lattice structure is distorted in alloys


Common alloys and their uses

  • Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc and is much stronger than either metal
  • Alloys of iron with tungsten are extremely hard and resistant to high temperatures
  • Alloys of iron mixed with chromium or nickel are resistant to corrosion
  • Aluminium is mixed with copper, manganese and silicon for aircraft body production as the alloy is stronger but still has a low density

Exam Tip

Alloys are mixtures of substances, they are not chemically combined and an alloy is not a compound.

Author: Morgan

Morgan’s passion for the Periodic Table begun on his 10th birthday when he received his first Chemistry set. After studying the subject at university he went on to become a fully fledged Chemistry teacher, and now works in an international school in Madrid! In his spare time he helps create our fantastic resources to help you ace your exams.

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