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Unit 5.

Reaction Rates
Syllabus Ref. 7.2

The rate of reaction of magnesium with hydrochloric acid

Class practical
Magnesium reacts with dilute hydrochloric acid in a conical flask which is connected to an inverted measuring cylinder in a
trough of water. The volume of hydrogen gas produced is measured over a few minutes, and the results are used to plot a

Lesson organisation
This is intended as a class practical. It is best if the students work in pairs because setting up and starting the experiment
requires more than one pair of hands. One student can add the magnesium ribbon to the acid and stopper the flask, while the
other starts the stopclock. During the experiment, one student can take the readings while the other records them. The
experiment itself takes only a few minutes. But allow at least 30 minutes to give students time to set up, take readings and draw
Hydrogen gas (EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE) is generated in the experiment. Students should not have access to any source of



Eye protection
Each group of students
will need:
Conical flask (100 cm3)
Single-holed rubber
bung and delivery tube
to fit conical flask (Note
Trough or plastic
washing-up bowl (Note
Measuring cylinders
(100 cm3), 2
Clamp stand, boss and
Graph paper

Magnesium ribbon cut into 3 cm lengths

Dilute hydrochloric acid, 1M
Refer to Health & Safety and Technical
notes section below for additional

Health & Safety and Technical notes

Read our standard health & safety guidance
Wear eye protection throughout. Ensure that there are no naked flames.
Magnesium ribbon, Mg(s) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard. The magnesium ribbon should be clean and free from obvious corrosion or
oxidation. Clean if necessary by rubbing lengths of the ribbon with fine sandpaper to remove the layer of oxidation.
Hydrochloric acid, HCl(aq) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard and CLEAPSS Recipe Book. The hydrochloric acid should be about 1M for

a reasonable rate of reaction. Each experiment run will need 50 cm3. Though low hazard, eye protection is necessary as you
may get a spray as tiny bubbles burst.
Hydrogen gas, H2(g) (EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE) - see CLEAPSS Hazcard. Ensure that all naked flames are extinguished, and
that there are no other sources of ignition available to students.
1 The bungs in the flasks need to be rubber. Corks are too porous and will leak. The tube through the bung should be a short
section of glass, and then a flexible rubber tube can be connected.
2 Gas syringes can be used instead of troughs of water and measuring cylinders. But these are very expensive and are probably
best used by the teacher in a demonstration. Syringes should not be allowed to become wet, or the plungers will stick inside the

a Measure 50 cm3 of 1M hydrochloric acid using one of the measuring cylinders. Pour the acid into the 100 cm3 conical flask.
b Set up the apparatus as shown in the diagram. Half fill the trough or bowl with water.

c Fill the other measuring cylinder with water, and make sure that it stays filled with water when you turn it upside down.
d When you are ready, add a 3 cm strip of magnesium ribbon to the flask, put the bung back into the flask as quickly as you can,
and start the stopwatch.
e Record the volume of hydrogen gas given off at suitable intervals (eg 10 seconds). Continue timing until no more gas appears
to be given off.

Teaching notes
The equation for the reaction is:
magnesium + hydrochloric acid magnesium chloride + hydrogen
Mg(s) + 2HCl(aq) MgCl2(aq) + H2(g)
Students follow the rate of reaction between magnesium and the acid, by measuring the amount of gas produced at 10 second
3 cm of magnesium ribbon typically has a mass of 0.04 g and yields 40 cm3 of hydrogen when reacted with excess acid. 50 cm3
of 1M hydrochloric acid is a six-fold excess of acid.
In this reaction, the magnesium and acid are gradually used up. However the acid is in excess, so it is mainly the loss of
magnesium (surface area becomes smaller) that causes the change in the rate.
If a graph of volume (y-axis) against time (x-axis) is drawn, the slope of the graph is steepest at the beginning. This shows that
the reaction is fastest at the start. As the magnesium is used up, the rate falls. This can be seen on the graph, as the slope
becomes less steep and then levels out when the reaction has stopped (when no more gas is produced).
The reaction is exothermic, but the dilute acid is in excess and the rise in temperature is only of the order of 3.5C. There is some
acceleration of the reaction rate due to the rise in temperature. Some students might notice the flask becoming slightly warm and
they could be asked how this would affect the rate of reaction, and how they might adapt the experiment to make it a fair test.
Health & Safety checked, September 2014

This Practical Chemistry resource was developed by the Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Nuffield Foundation and the Royal Society of Chemistry

Page last updated October 2015