Skip to main content
How To Demonstrate A Displacement Reaction Under a Microscope

How To Demonstrate A Displacement Reaction Under a Microscope

In this video, Paul Cook shows the displacement reaction between silver nitrate (AgNO₃) and copper (Cu) up close under a microscope.

Ideal for GCSE Chemistry students, this microscale chemistry demonstration is a creative way to help students understand displacement reactions and appreciate the reactivity of metals. Essential for making predictions about reactions, and applying their knowledge to real-world scenarios. This lays the groundwork for more advanced chemistry concepts in A-Level.

In this reaction, copper (Cu) in solid form reacts with silver nitrate in aqueous solution. The copper atoms donate electrons to the silver ions, causing the silver ions to be reduced to silver metal. Simultaneously, copper ions are formed and remain in solution as copper(II) nitrate.

You will need:

  • Cavity slide
  • Microscope
  • Silver nitrate solution
  • Bare copper wire
  • Pipette or dropper
  • Safety goggles
  • Lab coat
  • Chemical resistant gloves



    1.  Place a small amount of silver nitrate solution into the cavity of the cavity slide.
    2. Gently place the bare copper wire or foil into the silver nitrate solution in the cavity. Observe the reaction, which involves the displacement of silver ions by copper.
    3. Use the microscope to observe the reaction at a microscopic level. Look for any changes, such as the formation of silver metal on the copper.
    4. Record your observations, noting any colour changes, precipitates, or other indicators of the reaction.


All health and safety measures are the responsibility of the teacher doing the demonstration. A thorough risk assessment should be carried out and guidance procedures followed. It is suggested that you practice before demonstration in front of a class.

Enjoyed this blog? Become a LaBLiFer and sign up to our newsletter to get special deals: