Metal Reactions

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This is written as a static display, but can easily be adapted to a hands-on experiment for learners to conduct. Sodium phosphate, a clear colorless solution, is combined with six different metal ion solutions. Each metal (copper, nickel, iron, silver, cobalt, and barium) forms a different color and texture precipitate. Learners discover that a chemical reaction can be identified by a color change, and formation of a precipitate. They also learn that metals can be identified by their precipitates. For safety reasons, this activity should be conducted as a demonstration for younger audiences.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Exhibit, Experiment/Lab Activity


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Six large test tubes (each should hold at least 25 ml+) with rubber stoppers to fit
  • One test tube rack to display tubes
  • 3.80 g Na3PO4 * 12H2O (sodium phosphate) (potassium phosphate will also work)
  • 0.62 g CuSO4 * 5H2O (copper (II) sulfate) (copper (II) nitrate will also work)
  • 0.73 g Ni(NO3)2 * 6H2O (nickel (II) nitrate)
  • 0.59 g CoCl2 * 6H2O (cobalt (II) chloride) (cobalt (II) nitrate will also work)
  • 0.68 g FeCl3 * 6H2O (iron (III) chloride) (iron (III) nitrate will also work)
  • 0.58 g AgNO3 (silver nitrate)
  • 0.63 g Ba(NO3)2 (barium nitrate)
  • Deionized water (dH2O) (keep 200 ml on hand)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Chemistry
      • Chemical Reactions
      • Solutions


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation