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Iron (Fe)

QUICK REFERENCE

  • Symbol: Fe
  • Atomic Number: 26
  • Atomic Weight: 55.845
  • Element Classification: Transition Metal
  • Discovered By: Ancient civilizations; recognized in prehistory
  • Discovery Date: Known to ancient civilizations
  • Name Origin: From the Anglo-Saxon ‘iren’; the symbol Fe comes from the Latin ‘ferrum’
  • Density(g/cc): 7.874
  • Melting Point: 1538°C
  • Boiling Point: 2862°C
  • Appearance: Lustrous, metallic with a grayish tinge
  • Atomic Radius(pm): 126

Discovery

Iron is one of the earliest metals discovered and used by human civilizations, with its use dating back to at least 5000 years. Because of its early discovery, no single individual or culture is credited with finding iron. The metal was so significant that its discovery and utilization marked the beginning of a new era, the Iron Age. Iron’s symbol, Fe, is derived from its Latin name ‘ferrum’, reflecting its importance in ancient Rome.

Relation to Other Elements

Iron is a transition metal, located in group 8 of the periodic table, between manganese and cobalt. It is characterized by its ability to form a wide range of alloys and compounds, showcasing various oxidation states, most commonly +2 (ferrous) and +3 (ferric). Iron’s properties, such as its magnetic nature, high tensile strength, and relatively low cost, make it an integral material in human civilization. It shares many properties with other transition metals but is distinguished by its role as a core element in steel production and its biological significance.

Natural Occurrence

Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and makes up about 5% of the Earth’s crust. It is found in the sun and many types of stars in considerable quantity. Iron is rarely found in its elemental form due to its tendency to oxidize; it is commonly found in ores such as hematite (Fe₂O₃), magnetite (Fe₃O₄), limonite (FeO(OH)·nH₂O), and siderite (FeCO₃). The Earth’s core is believed to be composed largely of iron, along with nickel, giving the planet its magnetic field.

Uses

Iron’s uses are extensive and varied, stemming from its fundamental role in modern society:

  • Steel Manufacturing: The most significant use of iron is in the production of steel, an alloy of iron and carbon, along with other elements, which is harder, stronger, and more versatile than pure iron.
  • Construction: Iron and steel are used in the construction of buildings, infrastructure, tools, ships, automobiles, machines, appliances, and weapons.
  • Magnetic Applications: Iron is a key component in magnets due to its ferromagnetic properties, used in electric motors, generators, transformers, and magnetic storage media.
  • Catalysis: Iron catalysts are crucial in the Haber process for synthesizing ammonia and in the Fischer-Tropsch process for producing liquid hydrocarbons from coal or gas.
  • Biological Importance: Iron is essential for all living organisms as it is a key component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen in the blood, and of myoglobin in muscles, as well as being a crucial element in various metabolic processes.

Iron’s discovery and utilization have had a profound impact on human development, marking significant technological and societal advancements. Its widespread use in infrastructure, technology, and industry, as well as its critical role in biological systems, underscores the indispensable nature of iron in contemporary life.

Manganese (Mn)

Cobalt (Co)