Iron. You see it, you touch it, you read about it, and in some cases, you might sing about it! But do you really know anything about iron? Where does it come from? Where does it stand in history? If you don’t know, you’re in the right place! Read on to learn 50 facts about Iron.
Fact 1: Where’s the one place you’re guaranteed to see Iron? Yes, the Periodic Table. Iron is known as ‘Fe’ and its atomic number is 26.
- An atomic number tells us how many protons and electrons are in an atom. In this example, Iron has 26 protons and electrons.
Fact 2: Iron is the 4th most abundant element in the universe, it’s mass accounts for 5% of the overall mass on Earth.
- In comparison, the most abundant element is Oxygen which makes up to 46.6% of the Earth’s mass!
Fact 3: Although it’s competent at conducting electricity and heat, it’s nowhere near as good as copper and aluminum.
- The copper and aluminum alternatives are used because they have other benefits like copper being resistant to corrosion,
Fact 4: Steel is made from 98-99.9% Iron plus 0.2-2.0% Carbon. The addition of Carbon makes a huge difference to the strength of the steel.
- Steel can be around 1000 times stronger than iron in its pure form.
Fact 5: The ‘Iron Age’ is literally what its name suggests. This prehistoric time was when men crafted useful tools and weapons from iron and steel for the first time. According to historians, this likely happened around the 12th century BC in ancient Greece, and 6th century BC in Northern Europe – but nobody knows an exact date.
- The ‘ard’ was a popular farming tool used in this period. The ‘ard’ was a plowing tool, which made turning over the fields a lot quicker.
Fact 6: For as long as people can remember Iron has been used. Although many will assume it was used for weapons, iron was also used to make cooking appliances.
- Cast iron pots were really common years ago, and are still popular today – but they are pricey.
Fact 7: ‘Magnetospirillium magneticum’ is a bacteria that is able to absorb iron, and can convert it into a spine made of magnetic magnetite!
- The bacteria then use this magnetic magnetite to travel through its environment using magnetic fields.
Fact 8: Iron is abundant throughout Earth’s crust.
- It’s found in minerals called magnetite and hematite. These two minerals are different forms of Iron oxid.
Fact 9: There are bacteria in the ocean called,’ Halomonas titanicae’ which is eating away at the Titanic.
- Sadly, it’s been estimated that in around 50 years time the hull and structure of the great cruise liner will collapse because of this iron-eating bacteria.
Fact 10: If you allow iron and oxygen to react with one another in the presence of water or moisture, a ‘rust’ (iron oxide) will form.
- Surface rust tends to be quite flaky and can peel off a surface very easily.
Fact 11: Iron oxidizes incredibly fast, which means it’s rarely found in its pure metal form on the Earth’s surface.
- To get iron, it has to be removed from rocks (ores) containing important minerals and elements.
Fact 12: If you think Jamie Lannister’s golden hand was cool then wait until you hear this… A German knight called Gotz von Berlichingen was robbed of his hand in 1504… So he had it replaced with an iron prosthetic.
- Contrary to how unbelievable this may seem, the Knight was able to pick up anything from a sword and shield to a pen and feather with his new hand!
Fact 13: Contrary to how it might seem, iron actually only hardens once it has been through the smelting process.
- Pure elemental iron is actually relatively soft and is a shiny silver-grey colour.
Fact 14: Pilbara region, Australia is the largest iron ore mining area in the world.
- According to reports, up to 95% of Austalia’s iron ore is found there.
Fact 15: When using a cast-iron skillet to cook, the amount of iron in the food may increase by 850% from his original iron content.
- Cast iron pots are good at conducting heat from the stove to the meat. However, copper pots are better.
Fact 16: According to reports, the ‘Cambrian explosion’ (development of complex organisms) can be explained because of Organisms adapting to the increase of calcium and iron that leaked into the oceans from eroding rock layers.
- The Cambrian Explosion was a period of time 541 million years ago. It was known as the Cambrian Explosion because this was when the first complex organisms ‘exploded’ into life on earth.
Fact 17: 20mg of iron, per kilogram, in our bodies is toxic and 60mg is deadly.
- Iron poisoning is largely associated with people eating too much iron that is in food. According to reports, there are no known accounts of iron poisoning because a person has been mining Iron.
Fact 18: Good old Popeye has been popping spinach for years and years, but did you know this well-known character might have been popping the wrong food for all of these years? According to reports, spinach’s iron content was actually marked incorrectly on records – someone misplaced the decimal point when calculating the iron content.
- People genuinely believed that it was 10x more iron-rich than it actually was.
Fact 19: Iron is crucial for life as we know it.
- As humans, we need Iron to help transfer oxygen into the blood (haemoglobin), and plants need iron for chlorophyll.
Fact 20: Iron is the primary ingredient, along with concrete, of nearly every man-made structure on Earth.
- Modern buildings, though seemingly devoid of Iron, actually have a lattice of metal bars running through them known as Rebar.
Fact 21: According to scientists, there is an asteroid in our solar system called ’16 Psyche’, which has enough metal to fuel Earth’s Iron consumption for millions of years.
- In comparison, the Earth is said to have as little as a century of mineable iron left on or close to its surface.
Fact 22: Foods high in iron include red meats, fish, beans, tofu, and chickpeas.
- Interestingly, iron tablets often get mistaken for being sweets because of their shape.
Fact 23: Iron isn’t always magnetic.
- Two metals that are not magnetic are gold and silver.
Fact 24: Iron has a grey appearance, and is generally soft and shiny.
- In fact, Iron is so soft you can easily scratch it with a block of Granite stone. The reason for this is that Granite contains a lot of Quartz which is far harder than Iron.
Fact 25: In the ocean there is a sea snail which uses iron sulphide to create its skeletal like material.
- It uses this material to create its shell.
Fact 26: To make a point about the amount of CO2 in the air, an American businessman illegally dropped 100 tons of iron sulfate into the waters just off the coast of Canada. His aim was to promote the growth of plankton that is actually capable of absorbing CO2 from the air, thus creating cleaner air for us.
- This is still one of the greatest environmental re-engineering projects in the world to date.
Fact 27: Given that iron is used pretty much everywhere and has multiple uses, you’d be right to assume that iron is relatively cheap to buy.
- Iron can be used for building bridges to making vitamin supplements for the elderly.
Fact 28: The Iron is considered a more modern material than Bronze, Bronze is actually harder than iron.
- The reason why Bronze is not favored over Iron is that the base metals that make the Bronze alloy, such as Tin, Nickel, and Zink, are not as readily available as Iron.
Fact 29: The Bronze Age didn’t die out to because the Iron Age weaponry was better. The Bronze Age ended simply because Iron was more readily available and because man learned how to extract it from its mineral form.
- It wasn’t until much later that steel was accidentally discovered when Iron mixed with carbonized wood material.
Fact 30: Iron’s melting point is 1535.0°C.
- Its boiling point is 2862°C
Fact 31: Most Asteroids that quietly circle our solar system have vast amounts of Iron.
- However, it’s uneconomical to mine this Iron because it costs so much to rocket the mining machinery to an asteroid, and even more to fly the Iron back.
Fact 32: A 2-ton steel manhole cover was shot out of Earth’s atmosphere during an underground nuclear test in Los Alamos in the 1950s.
- The steel manhole cover was said to be traveling at an astonishing speed of 41 miles per second: easily enough to escape Earth’s and the Sun’s gravitational pull. It’s likely this modest manhole cover was the first-ever human-made object to leave the solar system!
Fact 33: There is a vast amount of Iron swirling around the inner and outer core of the earth.
- The inner core of the Earth is solid and made up of Iron and Nickel. However, the outer core is liquid. And this massive ball of iron, if you could see it would be roughly the twice the size of the Moon!
Fact 34: If you’re an engineer in Canada, you’ll have to wear an iron ring on your dominant hand.
- Why? Wearing the ring is a constant reminder of the obligations and ethics associated with the profession.
Fact 35: Painted, coating with plastic, and galvanizing (coated with zinc) iron are the major ways industry’s prevent iron from rusting.
- Surface rust is not generally a problem. However, rust expands when it forms. So if there are any cracks, even microscopic cracks, in the iron, the rust will form in the crack and prise it apart. This is what causes failure to occur
Fact 36: During the 1960s, a test was proposed that would have involved sending a prob to the center of the earth using Nukes and millions of tonnes of Iron!
- Apparently, this wakey idea would have involved detonating a nuclear bomb close to the surface to create a giant crater. Then, here comes the genius part, scientists would pour millions of tons of Iron into the whole in the hope that this mass of iron would sink to the center of the earth. And while all this is going on, a little scientific prob would ride the wave of Iron on the way down!
Fact 37: All the Iron that exists throughout the universe was created in stars such as our own sun.
- Through the process of Stellar Nucleosynthesis, Iron is created by the fusion of other atoms into a single Iron atom.
Stellar nucleosynthesis is the creation (nucleosynthesis) of chemical elements by nuclear fusion reactions within stars. Stellar nucleosynthesis has occurred since the original creation of hydrogen, helium and lithium during the Big Bang.
Fact 38: The popular ‘Iron pillar of Delhi’ is a pillar that was erected 1,600 years ago, which is completely Rust Proof.
- It cannot rust because there is an even layer of crystalline iron hydrogen phosphate forming, which protects it from the Delhi climate.
Fact 39: According to researchers the Earth’s core is thought to be made up of iron and nickel alloy.
- Additionally, it is proposed that on this giant liquid ball floats millions of kilometer high Carbon crystals. Or, in other words, Diamonds!
Fact 40: Iron is one of the easiest materials to recycle.
- For every 1ton of steel recycled, we conserve 1,250kg of iron ore, 650kg of coal and 154kg of limestone.
Fact 41: Puddle iron was used to build the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
- Puddle iron is a kind of wrought iron, which has a very low carbon content.
Fact 42: ‘Cast-iron’ is a kind of iron that contains carbon, silicon, and a small amount of manganese.
- Generally used in history to build structures like cast-iron bridges, but most of it has been replaced by steel.
Fact 43: ‘Cast-iron’ was produced first in China, in 550 B.C.
- It was not formally used in Europ until medieval times.
Fact 44: Iron can oxidate into different states.
- One of the primary oxidation states that we often encounter is simple, every day, rust.
Fact 45: In Russia, there is a mountain called Magnitogorsk. The mountain is made almost entirely of iron.
- It is estimated that the mountain is home to around 7-10 billion pounds of iron ore.
Fact 46: ‘Wrought iron’ is iron in its purest form.
- According to research, ‘wrought iron’ contains 0.12-0.25% carbon.
Fact 47: It is highly likely that you will see iron being used in the cores of electric transformers, generators, and motors.
- They use this material because it is known as a ‘soft’ magnetic material. Soft magnets are magnets that are easily magnetized and de-magnetized.
Fact 48: Iron has a density of 7.874 g/cm3.
- To compare this to water, iron is almost 8x heavier.
Fact 49: ‘Ferrum‘ is the Latin name for iron.
- ‘Fe’, iron’s periodic table symbol was derived from its Latin name.
Fact 50: Planets, that are classified as giants, like Jupiter, generally have an iron core.
- It is said that Jupiter’s core sits at a scintillating temperature of about 24,000°C! That’s well over 3 times hotter than the surface of the sun.