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Question 1

Copper can be extracted by hydrometallurgy but not zinc. Explain.


The reduction potentials of zinc and iron are lower than that of copper. In hydrometallurgy, zinc and iron can be used to displace copper from their solution.

Fe(s) + Cu2+(aq)   →   Fe2+(aq)   + Cu(s)

But to displace zinc, more reactive metals i.e., metals having lower reduction potentials than zinc such as Mg, Ca, K, etc. are required. But all these metals react with water with the evolution of H2 gas.

2K(s)  + 2H2O (l)   →  2KOH (aq) + H2(g)

As a result, these metals cannot be used in hydrometallurgy to extract zinc.

Hence, copper can be extracted by hydrometallurgy but not zinc.

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