Home Science 101 Amazing Iron Facts – Everything You Need to Know for School

101 Amazing Iron Facts – Everything You Need to Know for School

by Sankalan Baidya
iron facts

Iron – the 26th element on the Periodic Table – is an extremely vital element. Take this element away and the life on Earth as we know, will cease to exist.

So, if you are looking for some awesome iron facts, this article is all that you need for now.

Umm… pro-tip! We have an upcoming e-book on this element that contain more facts about the elements. Just saying!

Enough of sales talks. Let’s get started with the promised iron facts that you will need for your school homework.

Iron Facts: Some Quick Data

1. On the periodic table, Iron takes the 26th spot. It is the element after Manganese.

2. The name ‘iron’ comes from Anglo-Saxon word ‘iren’.

3. The element has a symbol of ‘Fe.’

4. Fe stands for ‘ferrum,’ which is a Latin word and means ‘firmness.’

5. Iron is classified as a transition metal. Yes, it is a metal.

6. The color of the element is silver-grey.

7. Iron has an atomic weight of 55.847.

8. One atom of iron contains 30 Neutrons (present in the most abundant isotope), 26 electrons and 26 protons.

9. The melting point of iron is 1535.1°C or 1808.2 K.

10. The boiling point of iron is 2750°C or 3023 K.

11. At room temperature the element stays in ‘solid’ state.

12. The density of iron at 20°C is 7.87 g/cm3.

13. The structure of iron is body-centered cubic or bcc.

14. On Mohs hardness scale, elemental iron has a hardness of 4.0 mohs.

15. The atomic volume of iron is 7.1 cm3/mol.

16. The element’s atomic radius if 140 pm (picometers).

17. Chemically, the symbol of iron is 26Fe.

iron facts

18. The electronic configuration of iron is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d6 4s2.

Iron Facts: All Know Isotopes of Iron

19. In total, there are 28 known isotopes of the element.

20. Of all the 28 known isotopes, there are only 7 isotopes which are considered as the main isotopes of iron.

In case you want to known the list of all known isotopes of iron, here is a quick table for you. The table comes with some additional data like whether the isotope is radioactive or not, the half-life of the isotope etc. Let’s begin…

Name of Isotope Type and Abundance Half-Life (HL)
45FeRadioactive 1.89ms.
46FeRadioactive 9ms.
47FeRadioactive 21.8ms.
48FeRadioactive 44ms.
49FeRadioactive 70ms.
50FeRadioactive 155ms.
51FeRadioactive 305ms.
52FeRadioactive 8.275 hrs.
53FeRadioactive 8.51 min.
54FeObservationally stable with 5.85% abundance.Possibly radioactive with 4.4×1020 years of HL.
55FeA synthetic isotope and doesn’t occur naturally.2.73 years.
56FeStable with 91.75% natural abundance.Stable and hence, no HL.
57FeStable with 2.12% natural abundance.Stable and hence, no HL.
58FeStable with 0.28% natural abundance.Stable and hence, no HL.
59FeSynthetic isotope and doesn’t occur naturally.44.495 days.
60FeAvailable in trace amounts.2.6×106 years.
61FeRadioactive5.98 min.
62FeRadioactive68 sec.
63FeRadioactive6.1 sec.
64FeRadioactive2.0 sec.
65FeRadioactive1.3 sec.

21. Of all the aforementioned isotopes in the table, the isotopes 54Fe to 60Fe are the main isotopes of iron.

Iron Facts: Discovery of Iron

22. Iron is one of those chemical elements that has been known to humankind since the ancient times.

23. Most likely, the first iron that the humans used came from meteorites.

24. Did you know that most of the meteorites that fall on Earth are all stony? However, there are some meteorites that have iron content of 90% and above.

25. Iron is known for corroding pretty quickly. This is the reason why ancient artifacts made of iron are pretty rare to find. On the contrary, ancient artifacts made of gold and silver are quite common.

26. Because ancient artifacts made of iron are difficult to find, tracing the exact history of iron is very difficult.

27. Experts have unearthed artifacts made of iron found from meteorites. Those artifacts belonged to the period of 5000 BCE. Put in simpler terms, those artifacts are 7000 years old.

28. One example of such iron artifact found by experts are the iron beads found in graves of ancient Egypt.

29. Evidence has been found that ancient Mesopotamians (today’s Iraq) smelted iron as early as 5000 BCE.

30. Again, there are ancient artifacts made of smelted iron which date back to 3000 BCE. Those artifacts were recovered from both Mesopotamia and Egypt.

31. During those ancient times, iron was way more expensive that gold. It was actually a ceremonial metal.

32. According to Assyrian writings, the gold was 8 times cheaper than the iron.

33. According to popular history, the Iron Age began between 1300 and 1200 BCE. The Iron Age started only when iron became cheap enough to replace the bronze.

34. A proper timeline cannot be attached to the invention of steel. However, experts believe that it happened somewhere in 1000 BCE and the whole process was not intentional but accidental.

35. Steel was accidentally formed when molten charcoal and molten iron from smelting fire accidentally came together.

36. Before steel was discovered, people had very few reasons for replacing bronze with iron. The only plausible reason was that iron was cheaper and hence, there was a gradual switch from bronze to iron. People ushered into the Iron Age properly after the invention of steel.

37. Iron usage had become extremely common during the Roman times. Pliny the Elder from the first century CE said the following:

It is by the aid of iron that we construct houses, cleave rocks, and perform so many other useful offices in life.

Pliny the Elder

Iron Facts: Some Fun Facts You Don’t Want to Miss

38. During the ancient times, people had no idea that iron was abundant on Earth. The only source for metallic iron for those people was meteorites.

39. According to Assyrian writings, iron was 8 times more valuable that gold. It also possibly meant that iron was a pretty desired object because it came from the skies.

40. Ancient people considered iron to be a gift from the gods. For instance, ancient Egyptians called the metal as “ba-ne-pe”, which literally translates into “metal of heaven.”

41. There are texts inscribed on Egyptian pyramids, which are referred to as Pyramid Texts. These texts further reinforce the fact that the ancient people connected the metal with the heaven.

42. One such Pyramid Text states: “my bones are iron and my limbs are the imperishable stars.”

43. It is believed that 1/3rd of the total mass of Earth is made of iron alone. Majority of this iron is located deep within the core of our planet.

44. Did you know that there is enough iron on planet Earth that can be used to make three Mars-sized planets entirely made of iron?

45. It is believed by the scientists that the liquid iron that is present deep in the core of our planet is constantly moving in circular motions, producing electrical currents, which in turn produces the magnetic field of our planet.

46. The first ever magnetic metal that was discovered was iron. Ancient navigators used lodestones as compasses because they had the ability to point towards the magnetic north pole of our planet.

47. Thales of Miletus – an ancient Greek philosopher described the use of lodestones back in 600 BCE.

48. Lodestones were actually made of magnetite – an oxide of iron that occurs naturally. The formula for magnetite is FeO.Fe2O3.

49. Did you know that some animals on our planet have a sixth sense – the magnetic sense? They have been found to have magnetite.

50. Because of the presence of magnetite in them, these animals are sensitive to the magnetic field of Earth. This sensitivity helps them to navigate. Some of these animals include dolphins, homing pigeons and honey bees.

iron facts

51. With over 60 tons in weight, the Hoba Meteorite located in Namibia is the world’s largest naturally occurring piece of iron.

52. This Hoba Meteorite is made of 82 to 83 % iron, only 1% cobalt, 16 to 17% nickel and trace amounts of other elements.

53. Not just that! The Hoba Meteorite is the largest single meteorite that has been found on Earth.

54. Did you know that iron is a ferromagnetic substance? Ferromagnetism is a very strong type of magnetism. Cobalt and nickel are also ferromagnetic.

55. Using either cobalt, nickel or iron along with some rare earth metals, we can make some really powerful magnets, for example, NIB magnets.

56. What are NIB magnets? They are Neodymium-Iron-Boron magnets. The three elements are mixed together to form an alloy. When they are mixed in the proportion Nd2Fe14B, the resulting alloy becomes a NIB magnet, which is extremely powerful.

57. NIB magnets were invented in early 1980s and today they are widely used in audio systems, wind turbines, motors, toys, medical equipment, cellphones, computers, etc.

Iron Facts – Appearance and Characteristics of Iron

58. In general, iron is considered to be non-toxic.

59. Iron is a relatively soft metal. It has a silver-gray appearance and it is ductile (ductility is the ability to be drawn out into thin wires).

60. When it comes to electricity and heat conductivity, iron is a moderately good conductor.

61. Iron is known to get attracted by magnets and it can be magnetized very easily.

62. Iron in its pure elemental form is very reactive. It can react with moist air to form red-brown oxides that we usually refer to as rust.

63. One of the four allotropes of iron – the alpha-iron (α-iron) is magnetic in nature. There are in total four allotropes of iron (α, β, γ and δ).

64. The α-iron can change to β-iron and when that happens, the α-iron loses its magnetism.

65. Both α and β irons have same crystalline structure.

67. Of all the ores of iron, hematite is the commonest ore. The chemical formula for hematite is Fe2O3. Hematite is frequently seen as black sands along banks of streams and beaches.

68. In flame test, iron always burns with a golden color.

69. Iron dissolves readily in dilute acids.

Iron Facts: Uses of Iron

70. Iron is widely used in the manufacturing of steel. Iron is also used for making reinforced girders, reinforced concrete etc.

71. There are various types of steel, which have different properties as well as different uses. There is something called ordinary carbon steel. It is an allow of carbon and iron.

72. In ordinary carbon steel, the amount of carbon can vary from 0.1% to 2%. When carbon content is 0.1%, it is called mild steel and when the carbon content is 2%, it is called high carbon steel. Carbon steels do have some other elements mixed in them.

73. There is something called alloy steel. Alloy steels are basically carbon steels with different types of additives like manganese, tungsten, vanadium, chromium and nickel.

74. Alloy steels are way tougher and stronger than ordinary carbon steels. Alloy steels are usually used for wide range or applications like manufacturing of rifle barrels, manufacturing cutting tools, making bicycle chains, electricity pylons, bridges etc.

75. We have stainless steel. This type of steel contains a minimum of 10.5% chromium. Stainless steel is extremely resistant to corrosion.

76. To increase the workability and strength of stainless steel, manufacturers often combine other metals like copper, titanium, molybdenum and nickel.

By Wikimedia Commons user TheBernFiles. – Own work, Public Domain, Link

78. Stainless steel has a wide range of applications like production of jewelry, surgical instruments, cutlery, bearings etc. It is also used in architecture.

79. Then we have something called cast iron. This type of iron has a carbon content of anywhere between 3 and 5%. This type of iron is used for making pumps, valves and pipes.

80. Cast iron is not really as strong as steel. However, cast iron is quite cheap.

81. Magnets can be produced using iron, its compounds and its alloys.

82. In what is called Haber Process used for making ammonia, manufacturers make use of iron catalyst.

83. In order to convert syngas into liquid fuel, manufactures make use of iron catalyst. Syngas is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The method used for converting syngas to liquid fuel is known as Fischer-Tropsch process.

Iron Facts: Abundance and Other General Facts

84. In Earth’s crust, iron is the fourth-most abundant element. If we go by measurements, the iron makes up 5.6% of Earth’s crust by weight and 2.1% of Earth’s crust by moles.

85. In entire Solar System, iron is present in the ratio 1090 parts per million by weight and 30 parts per million by moles.

86. Iron is the 6th most abundant element in the entire universe.

87. The core of the is made largely of iron with sulfur and nickel.

88. The core of the Earth has two parts – the inner solid core and the outer liquid core. The inner solid core has around 85% iron by weight while the outer liquid core has around 80% iron by weight.

89. According to Los Alamos National Laboratory, iron is also abundant in stars and our Sun.

90. According to Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, the heaviest element that can be formed at the core of a star is iron.

91. Other heavier elements, according to JPL, can be formed only when a very high mass star ends up exploding in a spectacular supernova.

92. The famous Iron Pillar of India is an enigma for scientists all over the world. Weighing at around 3000 kilograms, the pillar has a rust-resistance composition.

93. The pillar was erected somewhere in 400 CE and ever since then, it has withstood the test of time and remained rust-free, telling the story of the skills of the ancient Hindu iron smiths.

94. Attempts were made by Islamic invaders to destroy the pillar using close-range cannonball firing. The cannonball only left a small horizontal fissuring in the diametrically opposite end of the indentation caused by the direct impact of the cannonball.

95. The Iron Pillar stood intact even after such an impact but the ricocheting fragments of the cannonball did manage to damage a nearby mosque.

96. The top three countries that mine iron are Ukraine, Russia and China. However, when it comes to iron production, the three countries that lead the world are China, Australia and Brazil.

97. The exact location of iron on the Period Table is Group 8, Period 4 and Block d.

98. There is only one isotope of iron that has nuclear spin. It is 57Fe.

99. Iron can exist in many different oxidation states. The oxidation states in which the element can exist are +6, +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2.

100. The commonest oxidation states in which iron is found are +3 and +2.

101. The iron that occurs naturally is a mixture of 4 isotopes, which are: 54Fe, 56Fe, 57Fe and 58Fe.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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