Iron: Overview, Properties, Uses, and More

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Basic Overview of Iron

Iron SymbolFe
Iron Atomic Number26
Iron Atomic Mass55.85 g.mol -1
Discovered byThe Ancients

Chemical Properties Of Iron

Group8Melting point1536 °C
Period4Boiling point2861 °C
BlockdDensity (g cm−3)7.8 at 20°C
Atomic number26Relative atomic mass55.845
State at 20°CSolidKey isotopes56Fe
Electron configuration[Ar] 3d64s2CAS number7439-89-6
ChemSpider ID22368ChemSpider is a free chemical structure database

What is iron?

  • Iron, classified as a metal and belonging to group VIII of the periodic table, exhibits lustrous, ductile, and malleable properties, presenting itself in a silver-grey color.
  • Remarkably, it ranks as the tenth most abundant element in the universe and constitutes a significant portion at the molten core of the Earth.
  • Take the element iron (Fe), for instance, which can be transformed into a nail. Even if you cut the iron nail in half, it retains its identity as the element iron. Continue to reduce its size to the point where it’s barely visible, and you’ll still be holding onto the essence of the element iron.

Melting Point of Iron ( Fe)

  • The melting point of iron (Fe) under the extreme pressures found at the Earth’s outer (liquid) core and inner (solid) core, approximately 330 GPa at a depth of 5150 km, has been suggested to establish an absolute temperature limit.
  • Initial studies on the melting characteristics within the Fe-Ni-O-S system below 20 GPa have shown that realistic iron alloys significantly lower the Fe solidus from 2200 to 1150K.
  • Additionally, the introduction of alloy additives helps in suppressing the melting range, making it lower. While pure iron (Fe) maintains a fixed melting point of 1535 °C, chromium (Cr) stands at 1890 °C, and nickel (Ni) at 1453 °C, in contrast to the 1400-1450 °C range for the stainless steel of type 304.

Iron – Heavy Metal

  • Iron, with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26, holds a significant place in the periodic table as a group 6 and period 4 metal. Notably, iron is the ultimate element created through stellar nucleosynthesis, making it the heaviest element that doesn’t necessitate a supernova or a similarly catastrophic event for its formation. As a result, it stands as the most abundant heavy metal in the vast expanse of the universe.
  • On Earth, iron takes the lead as the most abundant metal and is believed to secure the tenth position among the most abundant elements in the universe. Found extensively in various layers of the Earth, iron’s concentration ranges from high in the inner core to about 5% in the outer crust.
  • There’s speculation that the Earth’s inner core might consist of a single iron crystal, although it’s more likely a combination of iron and nickel. The substantial presence of iron is considered a contributing factor to the Earth’s magnetic field.
  • Extracted from iron ore, iron is a metal seldom found in its free state. It plays a crucial role in the production of steel, which, though not an element but an alloy, represents a solution of different metals and some non-metals, particularly carbon.

Uses of iron

  • Iron serves a pivotal role in various applications, including its prominent use in the manufacturing of steel and in civil engineering projects like reinforced concrete and girders.
  • In the production of alloy steels, iron is combined with additives such as nickel, chromium, vanadium, tungsten, and manganese. These alloy steels find applications in constructing bridges, electricity pylons, bicycle chains, cutting tools, and rifle barrels.
  • Cast iron, containing 3–5% carbon, is utilized for crafting pipes, valves, and pumps due to its specific properties.
  • Iron catalysts are integral to the Haber process, facilitating the production of ammonia, a crucial compound in various industrial processes.
  • Beyond its structural and industrial uses, iron and its alloys and compounds are employed in the creation of magnets, showcasing the diverse applications of this metal in everyday items and advanced technologies.

Physical Properties of Iron

  • In the presence of damp air, iron undergoes rusting, a process not observed in dry air conditions.
  • It readily dissolves when exposed to dilute acids.
  • At room temperature, this metal exists in the form of ferrite or α-form.
  • Upon reaching 910°C, it undergoes a transformation into γ-iron, exhibiting a softer nature.
  • With a melting point of 1536°C and a boiling point of 2861°C, iron undergoes distinct phase changes under varying temperatures.
  • As a metal, it possesses magnetic properties, adding to its diverse range of characteristics.

Why is Iron different from Other Elements?

  • The key distinction between elements lies in the number of protons present in the nucleus of their atoms.
  • This unique count of protons defines each element and serves as the basis for their organization on the periodic table.
  • Referred to as the atomic number, this specific number of protons characterizes the identity of an element.
  • Displayed above the element symbol on the periodic table, the atomic number for iron is 26.
  • This signifies that iron has twenty-six protons in its nucleus, setting it apart as iron. Even a small alteration in this count can result in an entirely different element.
  • For instance, adding one proton transforms iron into cobalt, while subtracting one proton leads to the creation of manganese (Mn), a distinct element with twenty-five protons. Thus, the manipulation of the number of protons fundamentally changes the nature of the element.

Facts About Iron

  • The human body typically houses around 4 grams of iron, primarily in the form of hemoglobin within the bloodstream.
  • On a cosmic scale, it ranks as the 6th most prevalent element in the universe.
  • Iron exhibits four recognized allotropic forms, showcasing its ability to exist in various structural arrangements.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

Q1: What is the importance of the element iron?

  • Building Block of Steel: Iron is a fundamental component in the production of steel, serving as a primary building block for this widely used alloy.
  • Oxygen Transfer in Blood: Hemoglobin, containing iron, plays a crucial role in the human body by facilitating the transfer of oxygen in the blood.
  • Nourishment of Plants: Iron is essential for the nourishment of plants, contributing to their growth and development.

Q2: What is the atomic number of iron?

  • The atomic number of iron is 26, and its chemical symbol is Fe. Positioned in the periodic table’s first transition series and group 8, iron is the most abundant element on Earth by mass, constituting a significant portion of the outer and inner core.

Q3: Write the electronic configuration of iron:

  • The electronic configuration of iron is [Ar] 3d6 4s2. While the full electronic configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d6, it is commonly abbreviated as [Ar] 3d6 4s2.

Q4: What is the boiling point of iron?

  • The boiling point of iron is 2861°C. This temperature represents the point at which iron changes from a liquid to a gaseous state. Steel, a refined form of iron, has its own distinct properties and melting point.

Q5: Why does iron have a high melting point?

  • The high melting point of iron (and metals in general) is attributed to the strong attractive forces between metal ions and dislocated electrons. These forces are solid, requiring substantial energy input to overcome, resulting in high melting points.

Q6: What are the properties of iron?

  • Iron is lustrous, ductile, and malleable, presenting a silver-gray appearance in the periodic table’s group VIII.
  • Rusts in humid weather but not in dry air.
  • Easily dissolves in dilute acids.

Q7: What are the types of iron?

  • i) Plain Iron
  • ii) Wrought Iron
  • iii) Cast Iron
  • iv) Pig Iron
  • v) Direct Reduced Iron

Q8: What are the properties and uses of iron?

  • Properties: Smooth, greyish metal; rusts in humid weather; lustrous, ductile, malleable.
  • Uses: Predominantly used in steel production; integral in construction engineering (reinforced concrete, girders, etc.); significant in various manufacturing processes.

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