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 e-book is all that you need for now.
No, it is not a science book. It only states facts. It will not tell you about the different chemical reactions of iron or the properties of iron compounds and the bonds that the atoms of iron make with atoms of other elements. For that, you will need a complete chemistry book.
This book only covers the facts about the element so that you can get acquainted with the metal before you dive deep into the topic.
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.
Fact 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.
18. The electronic configuration of iron is 1s22s22p63s23p63d64s2.
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)|
|54Fe||Observationally stable with 5.85% abundance.||Possibly radioactive with 4.4×1020 years of HL.|
|55Fe||A synthetic isotope and doesn’t occur naturally.||2.73 years.|
|56Fe||Stable with 91.75% natural abundance.||Stable and hence, no HL.|
|57Fe||Stable with 2.12% natural abundance.||Stable and hence, no HL.|
|58Fe||Stable with 0.28% natural abundance.||Stable and hence, no HL.|
|59Fe||Synthetic isotope and doesn’t occur naturally.||44.495 days.|
|60Fe||Available in trace amounts.||2.6×106 years.|
21. Of all the aforementioned isotopes in the table, the isotopes 54Fe to 60Fe are the main isotopes of iron.
Iron Facts: History and Discovery of Iron
Did you really think that we will not talk about the history and discovery of the element in our list of iron facts? You are wrong if you thought so!
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 than 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.”
38. It was during the Middle Bronze Age that the iron production began for the first time.
39. Archeologists have found smelted iron samples from Tall Chagar Bazar of Northern Syria and Asmar of Mesopotamia. These samples date back to 3000 to 2700 BCE.
40. At round 1600 BCE the Hittites empire came to an existence in north-central Anatolia. They, according to many historians, were probably the first people to understand iron production from the ores or iron.
41. The Hittites started smelting iron somewhere between 1500 BCE and 1200 BCE.
42. After the Hittites empire’s downfall in 1180 BCE, the smelting process spread to Near East, which eventually led to the beginning of the Iron Age.
43. Though the claims that Hittites were the first to understand iron production from ores exists, the possible truth is that there were other civilizations where smelted iron existed before the Hittites empire even came into existence.
44. For instance, archeologists have actually found smelted iron artifacts from India which date back to 1800 BCE to 1200 BCE. Don’t forget the Tall Chagar Bazar and Asmar.
45. Archeological evidences suggest that iron was smelted during 8th century BCE in Zimbabwe and even southeast Africa.
46. Greece learned iron-working during late 11th century. It was from Greece that iron-working spread into Europe.
47. The Celtic expansion took place after iron-working spread into Central and Western Europe.
48. It is estimated that the annual iron production in Rome clocked at 84750 tons. Han China at that time produced only 5000 tons of iron.
49. In China, iron appeared somewhere between 700 and 500 BCE and most likely iron smelting reached China through Central Asia.
50. Evidences show that the first blast furnace of China dates to only 1st century CE. However, the Chinese did use the cupola furnaces as early as the Warring States period that lasted from 403 BCE to 221 BCE.
51. Henry Cort – during the Industrial Revolution in Britain – took pig iron and refined it to wrought iron. He used the puddling process and went on to patent it in 1783. Joseph Hall and others later improved the process.
52. China is credited with the first ever production of cast iron in 5th century BCE. Europe produced cast iron for the first time during the Medieval period.
53. Ancient China used cast iron for purposes like architecture, agriculture and warfare.
54. In Europe, during the Medieval times, people found out a way producing wrought iron out of cast iron.
55. The blast furnaces those were used during the Medieval times were made of fireproof bricks and were only 10 feet tall. Hand operated bellows were used for providing the air needed.
56. The modern blast furnaces that are used now have hearths that come with a diameter of 14 meters. Though these blast furnaces produce thousands of tons of iron every single day, they operate pretty much in the same way the blast furnaces of the Medieval times used to work.
57. One of the reasons behind the Industrial Revolution was the constant availability of iron that was cheap.
58. By end of 18th century, cast iron replaced wrought iron for various purposes because cast iron was cheaper.
59. Because iron gradually became cheaper and readily available, it gradually became a main structural material after the first ever iron bridge was built in 1778. The bridge stands even today.
60. After the bridge was built, iron found usage in building, aqueducts, ships, boats, rails and even iron cylinders in steam engines.
61. Steel on the other hand was actually a product of antiquity and was made using bloomery.
62. By 1000 BCE, good quality steel was already being manufactured by blacksmiths in Luristan in Western Persia.
63. India gave the improved version of steel in 300 BCE. It was known as Wootz steel. Then came the Damascus steel that was developed in 500 CE.
64. Though steel was already present, it wasn’t really a major commodity because it required specialized methods. Steel became a major commodity only in 1850s.
Okay, this brings us to the end of the history part of our iron facts. There’s a lot more to learn. So, keep reading…
Iron Facts: Some Fun Facts You Don’t Want to Miss
How about some fun iron facts? Okay, here we go…
65. 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.
66. 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.
67. 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.”
68. 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.
69. One such Pyramid Text states: “my bones are iron and my limbs are the imperishable stars.”
70. 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.
71. 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?
72. 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.
73. 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.
74. Thales of Miletus – an ancient Greek philosopher described the use of lodestones back in 600 BCE.
75. Lodestones were actually made of magnetite – an oxide of iron that occurs naturally. The formula for magnetite is FeO.Fe2O3.
76. Did you know that some animals on our planet have a sixth sense – the magnetic sense? They have been found to have magnetite.
77. 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.
78. With over 60 tons in weight, the Hoba Meteorite located in Namibia is the world’s largest naturally occurring piece of iron.
80. Not just that! The Hoba Meteorite is the largest single meteorite that has been found on Earth.
81. Did you know that iron is a ferromagnetic substance? Ferromagnetism is a very strong type of magnetism. Cobalt and nickel are also ferromagnetic.
82. Using either cobalt, nickel or iron along with some rare earth metals, we can make some really powerful magnets, for example, NIB magnets.
83. 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.
84. 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.
85. Bible’s Old Testament mentions iron multiple times.
86. Magnetite and hematite are the two minerals from which iron is mostly obtained.
87. However, magnetite and hematite are not the only two minerals to give iron. According to Jefferson Lab, other minerals like siderite, limonite and taconite can also be used to obtain iron.
88. Los Alamos National Laboratory says that there are four different allotropic forms of iron. In other words, iron can have four different structural forms which atoms display different patterns of bonding.
89. The individual names of these allotropes are alpha-iron, beta-iron, gamma-iron and delta-iron. Alpha-iron is also known as ferrite.
Iron Facts: Biological Role of Iron
Okay, not talking about iron’s biological role in our list of iron facts will not be wise. This element plays a very vital role! So, let us learn about a few of those roles.
90. Did you know that iron is an important part of our diet? Did you know that one of the commonest nutritional deficiency is iron deficiency?
91. Iron deficiency can lead to a lot of problems including anemia and fatigue. Anemia and fatigue can lead to adverse effect on an adult’s ability to perform physical work.
92. In teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, iron deficiency can lead to impairment of various mental functions including memory.
93. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says that iron deficiency in pregnant women can lead to the increase in risk of having early or small babies.
94. Did you know that there are two forms of iron when it comes to dietary iron? They are the heme-iron and the non-heme iron.
96. The non-heme iron on the other hand is not readily absorbed by the human body. Comparatively, the human body can absorb less of non-heme iron than the heme-iron.
97. The major source of heme-iron is plant-based food sources like spinach. However, it is also present in meat.
98. Studies have revealed that human body is capable of absorbing up to 30% of the heme-iron from their diet. On the contrary, humans can only absorb 2-10% of non-heme iron from their diet.
99. If you are consuming food that has more of non-heme iron, consider eating foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits or tomatoes because vitamin C helps to absorb non-heme iron.
100. In plants, the element plays a very vital role in the production of chlorophyll.
102. Did you know that iron has a very important role to play in the growth of phytoplankton?
103. Phytoplankton are tiny marine bacteria that are known for using carbon dioxide from our Earth’s atmosphere for the process of photosynthesis.
104. Did you know that many researchers have actually argued that if we fertilize our oceans with extra iron, phytoplankton can eventually help in reducing the carbon dioxide content in our atmosphere?
105. While the argument of the researchers sounds pretty nice when we think of fighting global warming, the reality is that if extra iron is added to the oceans, there will be a bloom in the toxin-producing algae, that will eventually contaminate the marine wildlife.
106. Some of the most iron-rich meat that we consume are: turkey, chicken, lamb, pork and beef.
107. Some of the most iron-rich marine food sources are tuna, oysters, clams and shrimps.
108. Some of the most iron-rich vegetables that we consume include molasses, tofu, tomato paste, lentils, beans, etc.
109. Though iron is a very important mineral for human body, excess or too much iron in our body can lead to serious problems. Remember that too much of anything is toxic for us.
110. When we consume too much of iron, there is free iron in our bloodstream. This free iron reacts promptly with peroxides to for free radicals which cause a host of health issues including premature aging, cancer and even DNA damage.
111. Not just that, the free radicals are also known for damaging lipids, proteins and various other cellular components that lead to various types of illnesses and sometimes, death.
112. Did you know? 20 mg of iron per kilogram of body weight is considered to be toxic. Increase this to 60 mg of iron per kilogram and it will be lethal.
113. Have you ever wondered why the color of the blood is red? It is because of the way the iron in our body reacts with oxygen. According to Santa Barbara’s University of California, iron and oxygen react in our body, forming chemical bonds. The way these bonds reflect light makes our blood appear red.
114. According to some researchers, anyone’s blood has more ferritin (a type of blood protein containing iron) and high iron markers, the person may be at more risk of cardiovascular problems.
115. Studies have also revealed that there is a 57% increase in the risk of coronary heart diseases because of the heme iron that is found in meat. Fortunately, non-heme iron has no such link with the risk of coronary heart diseases.
116. A study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in August 2013. The study found that in elderly people with Alzheimer’s Disease there was an increase in the amount of iron in hippocampus, which led to tissue damage in the hippocampus area. (Just for your knowledge, hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for memory formation).
117. Over time, just how much iron gets accumulated in our brain can be controlled by modification of various environmental factors like consumption of iron supplements, consumption of red meat, women undergoing hysterectomy before menopause, etc.
118. In the Journal of Psychiatric Research, a paper was published in 2017 in which Australian researchers claimed that iron deficiencies can lead to depression.
119. The European Journal of Nutrition had a paper published in 2017. The paper by some Iranian researchers said that new non-anemic mothers suffering with Postpartum Depression (PPD) were given iron supplements and it was found that the women experienced great improvements in PPD symptoms.
120. In general, human body contains about 4 grams of iron. How cool is this iron fact?
121. The daily iron intake requirement is between 10 to 18 milligrams.
Iron Facts: Appearance and Characteristics of Iron
122. In general, iron is considered to be non-toxic.
123. 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).
124. When it comes to electricity and heat conductivity, iron is a moderately good conductor.
125. Iron is known to get attracted by magnets and it can be magnetized very easily.
126. 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.
127. One of the four allotropes of iron – the alpha-iron (α-iron) is magnetic in nature.
128. The α-iron can change to β-iron and when that happens, the α-iron loses its magnetism.
129. Both α and β irons have same crystalline structure.
130. 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.
131. Here is one of the fun iron facts you must know: in flame test, iron always burns with a golden color.
132. Iron dissolves readily in dilute acids.
Iron Facts: Uses of Iron
The article is getting unusually lengthy? We know, but do you really want to leave the list of iron facts incomplete? Trust us, these will help!
133. Iron is widely used in the manufacturing of steel. Iron is also used for making reinforced girders, reinforced concrete etc.
134. 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.
135. 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.
137. 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.
138. We have stainless steel. This type of steel contains a minimum of 10.5% chromium. Stainless steel is extremely resistant to corrosion.
140. Stainless steel has a wide range of applications like production of jewelry, surgical instruments, cutlery, bearings etc. It is also used in architecture.
141. 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.
142. Cast iron is not really as strong as steel. However, cast iron is quite cheap.
143. Magnets can be produced using iron, its compounds and its alloys.
144. In what is called Haber Process used for making ammonia, manufacturers make use of iron catalyst.
145. 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 of Iron
This segment of iron facts is not really extremely important, but of course, the points mentioned below are important in some way or the other. We will leave it on to you to decided how they are important.
146. 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.
147. In entire Solar System, iron is present in the ratio 1090 parts per million by weight and 30 parts per million by moles.
148. Here is one of the cool iron facts – the element is the 6th most abundant element in the entire universe.
149. Want another one of the cool iron facts? Here’s one for you – the core of the Earth is made largely of iron with sulfur and nickel.
150. 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.
152. According to Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, the heaviest element that can be formed at the core of a star is iron.
153. Other heavier elements, according to JPL, can be formed only when a very high mass star ends up exploding in a spectacular supernova.
Other General Iron Facts
How on Earth can we, while talking about iron facts, not talk about the Iron Pillar of India? Continue reading and be surprised!
154. 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.
155. 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 ironsmiths.
156. 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.
157. The Iron Pillar stood intact even after such an impact, but the ricocheting fragments of the cannonball did manage to damage a nearby mosque.
158. 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.
159. The exact location of iron on the Period Table is Group 8, Period 4 and Block d.
160. There is only one isotope of iron that has nuclear spin. It is 57Fe.
161. 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.
162. The commonest oxidation states in which iron is found are +3 and +2.
163. The iron that occurs naturally is a mixture of 4 isotopes, which are: 54Fe, 56Fe, 57Fe and 58Fe.
Iron Facts: Did You Know?
Trust us, this segment of iron facts is fun. You will really love them. So, read on!
164. The reason why the rocky planets in our Solar System have abundant iron is that huge amounts of iron are produced in stars with high mass. When these stars explode is Supernova, the iron gets scattered into space.
165. Mars – the fourth inner planet of our Solar System has a surface with orange-reddish hue because the soil of the planet has rust or iron oxide particles in it.
166. On Earth’s surface you really cannot find native or metallic iron. This happens because iron has the tendency of being oxidized.
168. Whatever natural metallic iron is found on Earth comes from the iron meteorites that fall on Earth. These iron meteorites are pretty rare.
169. Out of every 20 meteorites that fall on Earth, only 1 meteorite contains unique iron-nickel minerals kamacite (which contains about 90 to 95% iron) and taenite (which contains about 35 to 80% iron).
170. 20% of the total volume of Earth’s lower mantle is made of ferropericlase – a mineral. This mineral has a formula (Mg,Fe)O. It is actually a solid solution of wüstite (FeO) and periclase (MgO).
171. Ferropericlase is the second-most abundant mineral phase in lower mantle with the first place being taken by silicate perovskite (Mg,Fe)SiO3.
172. Not only is the ferropericlase the second-most abundant mineral phase in lower mantle, it is also the major host of iron in the lower mantle.
173. In Earth’s crust, most of the iron that is found is in form of iron minerals which are formed when iron combines with various other elements.
174. Of all the iron minerals that are found in Earth’s crust, one major class of minerals is Iron Oxide. There are various types of iron oxides like siderite (FeCO3), magnetite (Fe3O4) and hematite (Fe2O3).
175. There are many igneous rocks on Earth which contain iron sulfide minerals like pentlandite and pyrrhotite.
176. Areas which have large iron deposits actually have banded iron formations. These banded iron formations are basically rocks with alternating layers of iron oxides and sedimentary rocks like chert and shale (note that chert and shale are poor in iron content).
177. The banded iron formations came into existence between 3,700 million years ago and 1,800 million years ago.
178. Since prehistoric times people have been using materials like ochre as brown, red and yellow pigments. These materials include finely ground iron(III) oxides (sometimes called oxide-hydroxides).
179. Pyrite – an iron sulfide mineral with a chemical formula of FeS2 has significant amounts of iron in it. However, extracting iron from pyrite is very difficult and uneconomical and hence, the mineral is not exploited for iron extraction.
180. Iron has different names in different languages. For example (as already mentioned earlier), iron is called Ferrum in Latin. In French, it is called Fer. The Italian and Portuguese name is Ferro. The Spanish name for iron is Hierro.
181. Earlier we said that iron was pricier than gold at one point in time because people knew of it as a heavenly object. That’s the reason why iron was often used for forging various weapons and tools.
182. Archeologists have actually found a dagger in the tomb of Tutankhamun that was most likely made of meteoric iron. The dagger had similar proportions of nickel, cobalt and iron as was found in the meteorite that was discovered in that area. The meteorite came down on Earth during an ancient meteor shower.
183. The iron of meteoric origin is relatively soft and ductile. This makes meteoritic iron an easy contender for cold-forging. However, if meteoritic iron is subjected to heat, it can become quite brittle because of the presence of nickel in it.
184. Iron makes up 95% of total metal production worldwide. All the metals together make up the remaining 5% of worldwide metal production.
185. Steel is as much as 1000 times harder than pure iron.
That completes our list of iron facts. This whopping list of 185 iron facts covers as much as possible to help you with your school homework or project. In case you think we have missed some of the basic iron facts, feel free to drop a message to us through the comments section. We will gladly add those facts.