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topic 31790 p.2

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

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A discussion started in 2004 but continuing through 2018 . . .

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 L [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada

September , 2009

A. 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.


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

December 2, 2009

A. 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 R [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Seattle, Washington

February , 2010

thumbs up signThanks, 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 :-)


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

March 18, 2010

A. 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 K [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Hartford, Wisconsin

May 7, 2010

A. 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 G [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- 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 P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- 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 [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Winnipeg,Manitoba,Canada

November 8, 2010

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

Sara J [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- 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!


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
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 B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- 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.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
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 F [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- 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

thumbs up signHi 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 :-(


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
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.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
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 why. 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

Spectator ion

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 mistaken about silver being one according to any of those definitions.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
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?


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

August 6, 2015

Cu + AgNO3 = CuNO3 + Ag [green solution Cu(I)]

Cu + 2AgNO3 = Cu(NO3)2 + 2Ag [blue solution Cu(II)]

jimi phaje
- ny New York usa

August 2015

? Hi Jimi. Evidence seems to show that the second reaction is the predominant one and what normally happens. You seem to be suggesting that if you keep exposing Cu(NO3)2 to additional copper metal, it will become 2Cu(NO3)

Cu(NO3)2 + Cu => 2Cu(NO3)

I am not a chemist, but doubt that this will happen except perhaps at very high temperatures in the presence of a catalyst. Have you ever actually witnessed a reaction of Cu with Silver Nitrate which produced this Cu(I) ?


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

December 10, 2015

A. Actually, Jimi is correct. I've done this experiment a few times and I have gotten Cu(I). There is more than one balanced equation.

Serina Akashia
- San Jose, California, USA

December 2015

thumbs up signThanks Serina. Yes, Jimi's equations balance, but simply putting the same number of atoms of each element on each side of the equal sign doesn't mean the reaction will actually happen :-)

For example, we can also write the "balanced equation":

Cu(NO3)2 + Cu => CuN2 + CuO6 (which balances but is nonsense)

So the question isn't whether we can write a balanced equation; the question is whether the reaction actually produces CuNO3 ions or Cu(NO3)2 ions (or both, and then in what proportion?).

So in your experience what is the condition that causes the generation of CuNO3 ions for you and some people while most people seem to get Cu(NO3)2? Thanks!


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

March 12, 2016

Q. Will Copper displace silver metal from silver nitrate solution? Answer with respect to redox potential list.

Sadia Amiri
- Hyderabad, Pakistan

March 2016

A. Hi Sadia. Yes, because of their positions in the redox potential list.

But are you certain that you clearly understand the question you wrote? Getting an answer to a question that you don't understand will not help you do anything except mislead your teachers about where they should be focusing their continuing efforts. Good luck.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

January 24, 2017

Q. Is it a double replacement reaction or single replacement?

Anthony Valdex
- Bulverde Texas US

January 2017

Hi Anthony. Carl R & Bradley A said it was single replacement and nobody has challenged them on the claim.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

January 16, 2018

Q. Is this a double displacement reaction? I'm a student of grade 10 and I have this query with my chem. project.

Prithvi Patil
- Mumbai,India

January 2018

thumbs up sign Hi Prithvi. Two readers have said it is single displacement based on their understanding of what single displacement vs. double displacement means. I'm sure they are right based on my understanding of what single displacement means.

It's fine to ask for help answering a question as long as you're sure you understand the question ... but if you post a question and you don't understand the question, you're not actually doing science. So please give us your definition of single or double displacement. If you can't, please tell the teacher you don't understand. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

March 6, 2018

Q. Hi! Would you be so kind to tell me how to recover Ag out of Cu2+ solution after the experiment AgNO3 + Cu is done (what is the waste management?

Thanks ;-)

Martina Hribovsek
- Jesenice, Slovenia, Europe

March 2018

A. Hi Martina. Because you called it an "experiment", I assume you are a teacher or science aide helping with student projects rather than a commercial application. I believe that simply putting a sizable amount of soap-free steel wool into the solution, to allow "cementation" to take place, will remove all the silver & copper, and render the solution non-problematic.

But if you are looking for something slightly more exotic, like recovering the silver first, please see topic 6262, "Silver refining problem: Removing copper from silver nitrate" and recover the silver as a filterable solid before removing the copper with the steel wool. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

March 9, 2018

thumbs up sign Thank you, Ted. I've decided for the "exotic" alternative :-)

Martina Hribovsek [returning]
- Jesenice, Slovenia, Europe

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