Extracting Metals towards the Top of the Activity Series
The metals high up in the reactivity series are very reactive. They cannot be obtained from their compounds by heating with carbon. For example, carbon cannot reduce the oxides of sodium, magnesium, calcium, aluminium, etc., to the respective metals. This is because these metals have more affinity for oxygen than carbon. These metals are obtained by electrolytic reduction. For example, sodium, magnesium and calcium are obtained by the electrolysis of their molten chlorides. The metals are deposited at the cathode (the negatively charged electrode), whereas, chlorine is liberated at the anode (the positively charged electrode). The reactions are –
Na+ + e– → Na
2Cl– → Cl2 + 2e–
Similarly, aluminium is obtained by the electrolytic reduction of aluminium oxide.