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What chemical reaction happens when you put copper into silver nitrate?


Q. I need help with chemistry lab. When you mix silver nitrate in with a copper wire, can anyone tell me in words the chemical equation that represents the reaction that occurred.

Nate Ndeleted
chemistry class - Ellsworth, Wisconsin


A. The silver nitrate is in solution and the metallic copper will dissolve to form copper nitrate; as it does so, the silver in solution will be precipitated out as metallic silver. That is, the silver in solution is exchanged for copper and the copper that is not in solution is substituted for silver. Hope this makes sense!


Cu(0) + 2AgNO3 = Cu(NO3)2 + Ag(0)

Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK

Silver Nitrate


A. No offense to the guy who wrote the response above, but the balanced chemical equation is a little off. It would be:

Cu + 2AgNO3 ---> Cu(NO3)2 + 2Ag

Jonathan T deleted
- Rutherglen, Ontario, Canada

Ed. note: Thanks Jonathan, you are correct. Trevor forgot the '2' in front of 'Ag" on the righthand side of the equation.


Person above is wrong because the equation has the 2 and 3 so they would be carried over instead of staying with the Ag

Eden M deleted
- Canberra A.C.T Australia


No offense to Eden, but I don't understand what you're saying :-)

As far as I can see, Jonathan's response is complete and correct.

Yes, Trevor Crichton's response does lack the required "2" before the Ag on the right hand side (his number 0 in parentheses has nothing to do with oxygen, but means the metal is at an oxidation state of zero, i.e., metallic form).

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey


thumbsup2You guys are just way too smart! :-Z

Katie Odeleted
- Austin, Texas


Hey Eden, I think you're right, I even checked with Mr. Rigg at school and he says so.

James Cdeleted
- Canberra, A.C.T., Australia

Hi James. Please invite Mr. Rigg to the discussion because I don't understand what you and Eden are saying, and I see nothing wrong with Jonathan's equation.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

Electricity and Electronics

Award Winning Science Fair Projects


I'm pretty sure that Jonathan's is right

Dan Mdeleted
- New York, New York

October 19, 2008

Ok, the one [from Jonathan] is def right:   Cu+2AgNO3-->Cu(NO3)2+2Ag

Natasha H deleted
- Canada

December 16, 2008

I would have to say it would be
Cu+2Ag(NO3) => 2Ag+Cu(NO3)2

Kari Anndeleted
- plattsmouth, Nebraska

Copper is multivalent, so can't it be two ways?

January 9, 2008

About the silver nitrate and copper reaction. we must consider it in two different directions. One would be that copper is a transition metal, so therefore it's multivalent. It can have a 1+ or 2+ charge, right?

if you consider it with the 1+ charge, the balanced chemical equation would be:

Cu(s) + AgNO3(aq) = CuNO3(aq) + Ag(s)

Fleur Sdeleted
- Montreal, Quebec, Canada

January 16, 2008

I don't think so, Fleur; Jonathan was correct.

Although you are right that copper is multivalent and is capable of forming certain compounds wherein the copper is at an oxidation state of +1, that does not mean that when you treat copper with silver nitrate that it can/will combine with the nitrate and maintain the +1 state. And in fact, it doesn't. In simple salts like copper nitrate, copper sulphate, copper chloride, etc., copper is always in the +2 oxidation state.

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 29, 2009

FLEUR you are very correct over all, what you say is true and your equation is completely balanced. I don't now why others put a coefficient of 2 on silver, with that you unbalance the charge between nitrate and silver because the charge of nitrate is -1 and silver +1 if you put a 2 to silver its charge converts to +2, therefore it does not cancels the charge of nitrate and that compound can't exist, and over all some in on the other side of the equation just put one silver when in the other side they put two. MATTER IS NEITHER CREATED OR DESTROYED.

Rene Mdeleted
- Monterrey, Mexico

October 29, 2009

Hi, Rene.

The "2" is not a coefficient on the silver, it's a coefficient on the silver nitrate, i.e., 2 molecules of silver nitrate.

You are correct that Fleur's equation is balanced, but although balanced, it is not the way the reaction proceeds because copper nitrate is not CuNO3, it is Cu(NO3)2 because copper does not form monovalent compounds with nitrate, but divalent ones.

The alternative equation is also balanced and does not call for matter to be created or destroyed. Let's express the reaction in words in case someone is reading the chemical notation incorrectly:

On the left side we have one atom of copper metal at oxidation state zero and two molecules of silver nitrate wherein the oxidation state of silver is plus 1 and the oxidation state of nitrate is minus one in each molecule. On the left side therefore we have one atom of copper, two atoms of silver, and two nitrate radicals.

On the right side we have two atoms of silver metal at oxidation state zero and one molecule of copper nitrate wherein the oxidation state of the copper is plus two and the oxidation state of each of two nitrate radicals is -1. On the right side therefore we have one atom of copper, two atoms of silver, and two nitrate radicals.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 17, 2008

I just did this lab in chemistry and we were told that the copper is a +2 charge so the equation would be:

Cu+2AgNO3 -> Cu(NO3)2+ 2Ag

the 2 in front of AgNO3 balances the (NO3)2 and the 2 in front of Ag balances the 2 in front of AgNO3

Ricky Odeleted
- Cherry Hill, New Jersey

 January 18, 2008

Thanks, Ricky, you are right. And when you did the experiment, did the solution also turn bluish, indicating the presence of Cu++ ions?

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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 7, 2008

Yes, the liquid does turn a blueish tint.

Topsy Kdeleted
- 14th Republic of Russia

January 12, 2010

No offense but we just did this in class and the copper nitrate solution does not turn a bluish color

Jerry Rdeleted
- Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

September 12, 2009

Q. I'm confused
the reaction: Cu + 2AgNO3 => Cu(NO3)2 + 2Ag

Why and how does it change into these new substances?
Why is it single displacement

Mel Ldeleted
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada

September , 2009

Hi, Mel. NO3 is what we call a radical -- a bunch of atoms that will stick together in this form in most chemical reactions -- so the NO3 remains NO3.

The reason the reaction happens is because silver is more noble than copper, so silver will be reduced to metal in preference to copper.

How it happens is that the silver nitrate is a liquid and a molecule of silver nitrate can find itself touching the copper surface. When this happens the copper atom transfers two electrons to silver atoms, oxidizing the copper to a dissolved ion and reducing the silver ions to silver metal.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 2, 2009

The reaction is Single Displacement. The reaction works because Copper is more reactive than Silver, which is stated in the metal reactivity series. Reactivity of metals follows the trend: Group I > Group II > Aluminum > Transition metals (Iron, Copper) > "Jewelry type transition metals" (Silver, Gold, Platinum). Silver nitrate is great to use in single displacement reactions because it is very easy to displace silver. Hope that answer helps.

Carl Reagle
- Stuart, Florida

February 26, 2010

When balancing the equation the silver product must have a 2 coefficient because of criss-crossing the charges of the two ions. We also proved that this is the accurate balancing when doing the experiment in my junior chemistry class through stoichiometry. Our results showed that the moles of reacted silver were double the moles of reacted copper, therefore Jonathan is correct.

Ellie Rdeleted
- Seattle, Washington

February , 2010

Thanks, Ellie, that's what we wanted to hear -- that some students actually did the experiment with quantitative measurements and determined the truth of the matter :-)


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 18, 2010

The coefficient 2 goes in front of the Silver & Silver nitrate if any of you are wondering; and when you do this lab, the filtrate should be a blueish color.

Amanda Kdeleted
- Hartford, Wisconsin

May 7, 2010

Yes, the liquid does turn a blueish colour. However, the liquid does need to stand for at least thirty minutes for this change to occur. Crystals also form on the copper wire after a few hours.

Madi Gdeleted
- Manjimup, W.A, Australia

May 10, 2010

Jonathan is correct. His equation is correctly balanced; also it does not turn blue. The copper actually turns a dark black, then rusts away and becomes white. Almost like a mold being scraped away.

Ryan Pdeleted
- Middlesex, New Jersey

May 11, 2010

Ryan, we are saying that when you put copper into a solution of Silver Nitrate, the solution turns blue; the white stuff is silver, it looks white because it is in a blue solution, the copper does not turn black what so ever, the blue is Copper 2 Nitrate.

Madi, The liquid turns blue very quickly or very slowly depending on the concentration of the Silver Nitrate being used, I used a 6M solution (Silver nitrate) and the silver was almost immediately (with in 5 seconds) replaced with copper, the liquid almost just as quickly went blue. If you use a low molar concentration of Silver Nitrate, like 1M or 0.1M, then the reaction takes longer, I just did a five Day lab at school with this, and got a perfect score by the way.

Brad K

- Winnipeg,Manitoba,Canada

November 8, 2010

You're wrong! The solution turns a blue color. Maybe you did the experiment wrong.

Sara Jdeleted
- Cleveland, Ohio

December 10, 2010

It actually depends on how much of the reactants you have for you to see the intensity of the blue-ish tint of the solution. Some of us had clearly blue solutions while others were faint and still others looked completely clear. We had different amounts of the reactants when we did this in class.

Kyle J.
- Toms River, New Jersey, USA

February 15, 2012

Guys we also did this in class and all of ours turned a hazy blue... it depends on how much of the solution and the copper you use along with any water that is included. Most normal copper wire will be a 2+ ion. Unless your teacher states that you are using 1+ copper it is safe to assume that it is 2+ (but double check anyway). Nevertheless it is a single replacement either way.

Bradley A
- Clarksville, Maryland USA

June 27, 2012

A. I definitely agree with Jonathan and Ted.The chemical equation is perfect with the balancing done properly.

Allena Andress
- Jammu, Jammu & Kashmir, India

April 11, 2012

No offense to everyone, you are all totally wrong:
x = -b +/- √ ((b2 - 4ac)/2a)

Bob Johnson
- Dundee, Scotland

RING!!!! BUZZ!!!!! RING!!!!!

Wake up Bob! Wake UP! Algebra class ended while you were sleeping ... you're in chemistry!


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 2, 2012

When I was doing this experiment the solution turned a bluish tint after a long while, and the equation for the ending product is:
Cu + Ag(NO3)2 -> Ag + Cu(NO3)2 -- that's what I think.

Samantha Bdeleted
- Brooklyn, New York , USA

October 2, 2012

Sorry Sam. There is no such thing as Ag(NO3)2 because silver never has a +2 oxidation state.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 17, 2012

Q. We sped the [silver immersion plating onto copper] reaction up in our class by adding 3 drops of 3 molar nitric acid to the copper and silver nitrate. My data was rough, but I did see approximately the 2:1 mole ratio of silver produced to copper reacted, experimentally supporting the +2 oxidation state of copper over the +1. My question is, WHY is copper always divalent with nitrate? Does it have anything to do with the size of the nitrate ion? And what pushes the copper toward one oxidation state over the other when it combines with, say, chloride?

Thanks, this is a great discussion!

Jenny Fdeleted
- Chicago, Illinois USA

Science is for everyone -- including kids...
The fascinating Blackawton Bee project: original published research by 8 and 10 year olds.

October 18, 2012

thumbsup2Hi Jenny. That is a great question, and I'm proud of you for asking it. As someone from the plating industry, I know that copper always ionizes at plus 2 in acid solutions like chloride, nitrate, sulfate, & fluoborate and in the slightly alkaline copper pyrophosphate; and it ionizes at plus 1 in copper cyanide. I also know that copper oxidizes into a mix of Cu2O (cupric oxide) and CuO (cuprous oxide) from simple heating in air.

Unfortunately, I'll have to defer to a chemist as to why :-(


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 29, 2012

Dear Jenny,

I can take you out of your doubt, or I hope I can explain it well...

In acid aqueous solutions, the Cu+ is unstable. It reacts really fast with the acid ion (H+) to form Cu++ and hydrogen, both species stable in this condition. In alkaline media, there is some competition with Cu+ and Cu++, and they are in equilibrium. If you add some complexing agent as cyanide, as Ted has mentioned, the equilibrium breaks its balance and the reaction goes one or other side depending on which is the most stable complex, if Cu(I) or Cu(II). [Cu(CN)4]3- is more stable than [Cu(CN)4]2-, so the first is the reactions that "wins"...

All is equilibrium, all is balance... When you add something that affects somehow some one of the elements in balance, you are breaking a balance and creating another. This is some basic Thermodynamics.

Hope this is clear, I'm glad that there is some interest in chemistry in some places!

Daniel Montanes
- Cañuelas, Buenos Aires, Argentina

January 7, 2013

Q. Ted Mooney,

Ummmm what is the life purpose of this experiment

Theiry L. [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Hombroke, Massachusetts, USA

January 7, 2013

A. Hi Theiry.

Tell me what "life purpose of this experiment" means to you and I will be happy to try to answer.


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 10, 2013

A. Hi Thiery,

Over the Christmas holidays in the UK there was a series of lectures (three of them) aimed at the 11-16 year olds, called the Christmas Lectures and sub-titled this year "The Modern Alchemist". It shows how chemistry influences all parts of our lives, thoroughly entertaining and if you can access the BBC iPlayer in the USA well worth watching (would even recommend it to the the adult audience as well).

Brian Terry
aerospace - Yeovil, Somerset, United Kingdom

Ed. note: If anyone can offer a link/URL for this, please do. We searched and went in endless circles on the BBC site, but found only brief clips from the series, all of which are broken (unknown whether it's because we are from USA or whether they are temporarily inaccessible due to the current Java hacking issue. Thanks.

May 20, 2013

Q. yeye Jon was right. Do the ionic equation and you can see that the balancing is correct, therefore silver being the spectator ion.

Emma [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Perth, wa Australia

May 22, 2013

A. Thanks Emma. I don't recall the concept of "spectator ion" from the old days when I learned chemistry. But I see a couple different definitions of spectator ion, and I think you are wrong about silver being one according to any of those definitions.


Spectator ion

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey

When copper is put in silver nitrate solution is it an exo or endothermic reaction?

March 3, 2014

Q. Does anybody know if this is exo or endothermic reaction?

Margaret Stokes
- Aurora, Illinois USA

March 2014

A. Hi Margaret. You can often make good progress by reading up how things are made and whether heat is required to make them, and by recognizing that reactions usually run in the direction that releases energy. Good luck. But why does it matter to you? We try hard to not be enablers for students who want to read homework answers rather than completing their assignments, and it's hard to tell who falls into that category and who doesn't when a question is asked which doesn't include any "why" or "how" but just asks for a one-word answer. Sorry. Maybe you're supposed to measure the heat input or output?


pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
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