IRON





Iron 3289
Photo by: gyn9037

Iron

Overview

The period in human history beginning in about 1200 B.C. is called the Iron Age. It was at about this time that humans first learned how to use iron metal. But in some ways, one could refer to the current era as the New Iron Age. Iron is probably the most widely used and most important metal today. No other metal is available to replace iron in all its many applications.

Iron is a transition metal. The transition metals are the elements that make up Groups 3 through 12 in the periodic table. The periodic table is a chart that shows how elements are related to one another. The transition metals are typical metals in that they tend to be bright, shiny, silvery solids. They all tend to conduct heat and electricity well. And they usually have high melting points.

SYMBOL
Fe

ATOMIC NUMBER
26

ATOMIC MASS
55.847

FAMILY
Group 8 (VIIIB)
Transition metal

PRONUNCIATION
EYE-um

Iron normally does not occur as a free element in the earth. In fact, iron was not of much value to humans until they learned how to free iron from its compounds. Once they could do that, humans were able to make tools, weapons, household implements, and other objects out of iron. This step marked the beginning of the Iron Age.

Some meteorites are very rich in iron. Here, children play on the Williamette meteorite in Hayden Planetarium in New York City, in 1939.
Some meteorites are very rich in iron. Here, children play on the Williamette meteorite in Hayden Planetarium in New York City, in 1939.

Iron is most valuable not as a pure metal, but in alloys. An alloy is made by melting and mixing two or more metals. The mixture has properties different from those of the individual metals. The best known and most widely used alloy of iron is steel. Steel contains iron and at least one other element. Today, specialized steels of all kinds are available for many different applications.

Discovery and naming

Ancient Egyptians had learned how to use iron before the First Dynasty, which began in about 3400 B.C. The Egyptians probably found the iron in meteorites. Meteorites are chunks of rock and metal that fall from the sky. Some meteorites are very rich in iron. The Egyptians made tools and jewelry out of iron.

Iron is probably the most widely used and most important metal today.

Iron was also known to early Asian civilizations. In Delhi, India, for example, a pillar made out of iron built in A.D. 415 still stands. It weighs 6.5 metric tons and remains in good condition after nearly 1,600 years.

Early Chinese civilizations also knew about iron. Workers learned to produce iron as early as 200 B.C. A number of iron objects, including cannons, remain from the Han period (202 B.C. to A.D. 221).

The Bible also includes many mentions of iron. For example, a long passage in the book of Job describes the mining of iron. Other passages tell about the processing of iron ore to obtain iron metal.

By the time of the Roman civilization, iron had become an essential metal. The historian Pliny (A.D. 23-79) described the role of iron in Rome:

It is by the aid of iron that we construct houses, cleave rocks, and perform so many other useful offices of life. But it is with iron also that wars, murders, and robberies are effected, and this, not only hand to hand, but from a distance even, by the aid of weapons and winged weapons, now launched from engines, now hurled by the human arm, and now furnished with feathery wings.

Even from the earliest days, humans probably seldom used iron in a pure form. It was difficult to make iron that was free of impurities, such as carbon (charcoal) and other metals. More important, however, it became obvious that iron with impurities was a stronger metal that iron without impurities.

It was not until 1786, however, that scientists learned what it was in steel that made it a more useful metal than iron. Three researchers, Gaspard Monge (1746-1818), C. A. Vandermonde, and Claude Louis Berthollet (1748-1822) solved the puzzLe. They found that a small amount of carbon mixed with iron produced a strong alloy. That alloy was steel. Today, the vast amount of iron used in so many applications is used in the form of steel, not pure iron.

Ancient Egyptians had learned how to use iron before the First Dynasty, which began in about 3400 B.C.

The chemical symbol for iron is Fe. That symbol comes from the Latin name for iron, ferrum.

Physical properties

Iron is a silvery-white or grayish metal. It is ductile and malleable. Ductile means capable of being drawn into thin wires. Malleable means capable of being hammered into thin sheets. It is one of only three naturally occurring magnetic elements. The other two are nickel and cobalt

Iron has a very high tensile strength. Tensile means it can be stretched without breaking. Iron is also very workable. Workability is the ability to bend, roll, hammer, cut, shape, form, and otherwise work with a metal to get it into a desired shape or thickness.

The melting point of pure iron is 1,536°C (2,797°F) and its boiling point is about 3,000°C (5,400°F). Its density is 7.87 grams per cubic centimeter. The melting point, boiling point, and other physical properties of steel alloys may be quite different from those of pure iron.

Chemical properties

Iron is a very active metal. It readily combines with oxygen in moist air. The product of this reaction, iron oxide (Fe 2 O 3 ), is known as rust. Iron also reacts with very hot water and steam to produce hydrogen gas. It also dissolves in most acids and reacts with many other elements.

Occurrence in nature

Iron is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth's crust. Its abundance is estimated to be about 5 percent. Most scientists believe that the Earth's core consists largely of iron. Iron is also found in the Sun, asteroids, and stars outside the solar system.

The most common ores of iron are hematite, or ferric oxide (Fe 2 O 3 ); limonite, or ferric oxide (Fe 2 O 3 ); magnetite, or iron oxide (Fe 3 O 4 ); and siderite, or iron carbonate (FeCO 3 ). An increasingly important source of iron is taconite. Taconite is a mixture of hematite and silica (sand). It contains about 25 percent iron.

The largest iron resources in the world are in China, Russia, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and India. The largest producers of iron from ore in the world are China, Japan, the United States, Russia, Germany, and Brazil.

Iron is one of only three naturally occurring magnetic elements. This is a computer graphic of a horseshoe magnet with iron filings aligned around it.
Iron is one of only three naturally occurring magnetic elements. This is a computer graphic of a horseshoe magnet with iron filings aligned around it.

Isotopes

There are four naturally occurring isotopes of iron, iron-54, iron-56, iron-57, and iron-58. Isotopes are two or more forms of an element. Isotopes differ from each other according to their mass number. The number written to the right of the element's name is the mass number. The mass number represents the number of protons plus neutrons in the nucleus of an atom of the element. The number of protons determines the element, but the number of neutrons in the atom of any one element can vary. Each variation is an isotope.

Six radioactive isotopes of iron are known also. A radioactive isotope is one that breaks apart and gives off some form of radiation. Radioactive isotopes are produced when very small particles are fired at atoms. These particles stick in the atoms and make them radioactive.

Two radioactive isotopes of iron are used in medical and scientific research. They are iron-55 and iron-59. These isotopes are used primarily as tracers in studies on blood. A tracer is a radioactive isotope whose presence in a system can easily be detected. The isotope is injected into the system. Inside the system, the isotope gives off radiation. That radiation can be followed by detectors placed around the system. Iron-55 and iron-59 are used to study the way in which red blood cells develop in the body. These studies can be used to tell if a person's blood is healthy.

Extraction

Iron goes through a number of stages between ore and final steel product. In the first stage, iron ore is heated with limestone and coke (pure carbon) in a blast furnace. A blast furnace is a very large oven in which the temperature may reach 1,500°C (2,700°F). In the blast furnace, coke removes oxygen from iron ore:

The limestone removes impurities in the iron ore.

Iron produced by this method is about 91 to 92 percent pure. The main impurity left is carbon from the coke used in the furnace. This form of iron is known as pig iron. Pig iron is generally too brittle (it breaks too easily) to be used in most products.

Most scientists believe that the Earth's core consists largely of iron.

A number of methods have been developed for purifying pig iron. A common method used today is called the basic oxygen process. In this process, pig iron is melted in a large oven. Then pure oxygen gas is blown through the molten pig iron. The oxygen burns off much of the carbon in the pig iron:

Although now outdated, iron stoves were once the primary source of heat for homes, as well as a means for cooking.
Although now outdated, iron stoves were once the primary source of heat for homes, as well as a means for cooking.

A small amount of carbon remains in the iron. The iron produced in this reaction is known as steel.

The term "steel" actually refers to a wide variety of products. The various forms of steel all contain iron and carbon. They also contain one or more other elements, such as silicon, titanium, vanadium, chromium, manganese, cobalt, nickel, zirconium, molybdenum, and tungsten. Two other steel-like products are cast iron and wrought iron. Cast iron is an alloy of iron, carbon, and silicon. Wrought iron contains iron and any one or more of many other elements. In general, however, wrought iron tends to contain very little carbon.

Uses

It would be impossible to list all uses of iron and steel products. In general, those products can be classified into categories: (1) automotive; (2) construction; (3) containers, packaging, and shipping; (4) machinery and industrial equipment; (5) rail transportation; (6) oil and gas industries; (7) electrical equipment; and (8) appliances and utensils. (For more information on specific kinds of steel alloys, see individual elements, such as titanium, vanadium, chromium, manganese, molybdenum, and tungsten.)

Compounds

Some iron is made into compounds. The amount is very small compared to the amount used in steel and other iron alloys. Probably the fastest growing use of iron compounds is in water treatment systems. The terms ferric and ferrous refer to two different forms in which iron occurs in compounds. Some of the important iron compounds are:

The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) for iron is 18 milligrams.

ferric acetate (Fe(C 2 H 3 O 2 ) 3 ): used in the dyeing of cloth

ferric ammonium oxalate(Fe(NH 4 ) 3 (C 2 O 4 ) 4 ): blueprints

ferric arsenate (FeAsO 4 ): insecticide

ferric chloride (FeCl 3 ): water purification and sewage treatment systems; dyeing of cloth; coloring agent in paints; additive for animal feed; etching material for engraving, photography, and printed circuits

ferric chromate (Fe 2 (CrO 4 ) 3 ): yellow pigment (coloring) for paints and ceramics

ferric hydroxide (Fe(OH) 3 ): brown pigment for coloring rubber; water purification systems

ferric phosphate (FePO 4 ): fertilizer; additive for animal and human foods

ferrous acetate (Fe(C 2 H 3 O 2 ) 2 ): dyeing of fabrics and leather; wood preservative

ferrous gluconate (Fe(C 6 H 11 O 7 ) 2 ): dietary supplement in "iron pills"

ferrous oxalate (FeC 2 O 4 ): yellow pigment for paints, plastics, glass, and ceramics; photographic developer

ferrous sulfate (FeSO 4 ): water purification and sewage treatment systems; catalyst in production of ammonia; fertilizer; herbicide; additive for animal feed; wood preservative; additive to flour to increase iron levels

Health effects

Iron is of critical importance to plants, humans, and animals. It occurs in hemoglobin, a molecule that carries oxygen in the blood. Hemoglobin picks up oxygen in the lungs, and carries it to the cells. In the cells, oxygen is used to produce energy the body needs to survive, grow, and stay healthy.

The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) for iron is 18 milligrams. The USRDA is the amount of an element that a person needs to stay healthy. Iron is available in a number of foods, including meat, eggs, and raisins.

An iron deficiency (lack of iron) can cause serious health problems in humans. For instance, hemoglobin molecules may not form in sufficient numbers. Or they may lose the ability to carry oxygen. If this occurs, a person develops a condition known as anemia. Anemia results in fatigue. Severe anemia can result in a lowered resistance to disease and an increase in heart and respiratory (breathing) problems. Some forms of anemia can even cause death.



User Contributions:

gareth
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Aug 14, 2008 @ 1:01 am
This was very useful information. Thank you very much.
Gareth
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Aug 14, 2008 @ 1:01 am
Thank you very much for this information. I was searching for hours for information about iron for a science project of mine. I found this information easy to understand and it was written in a way that made it easy to outline key pints.
owais ahmed
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Oct 20, 2008 @ 11:11 am
Iron uses and info.. good top know info about certain facts of iron and how vital an element it is.. its application and its known to man since iron age
Lindsey
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Jan 3, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
I found this information very helpful for the chemistry project I am working on.
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Feb 11, 2009 @ 7:19 pm
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mayoom
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Feb 21, 2009 @ 5:05 am
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Jun 9, 2009 @ 11:23 pm
I found this information very helpful for the chemistry project I am working on.
Fred XD
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Sep 15, 2009 @ 7:07 am
Hello........... THANKYOU SOO MUCH for this extremely valuable information. It was an absolute lifesaver and i now know alot more about CHEMISTRY and the properties of IRON!!! . . . . .My teacher will be stoked.

Thanks
------------FRED--------------
kathy
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Sep 29, 2009 @ 6:18 pm
thank you very much!
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useful for the school :)
Ashley
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Nov 7, 2009 @ 1:13 pm
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Silke
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Dec 5, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
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Spencer
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Dec 5, 2009 @ 6:18 pm
I also have a science project. After reading through the article I found myself thoroughly explained about iron's attributes, appearance and etc.
Tyler
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Dec 6, 2009 @ 10:10 am
all i can say is thank you so much this was a great help. I know for sure that i will get an A + it was a really great help thanks again
Brittany
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Dec 7, 2009 @ 9:21 pm
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Robbie
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Dec 20, 2009 @ 8:20 pm
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Baheej
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Dec 26, 2009 @ 12:00 am
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dimecakey
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Dec 26, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
thank you so much i really appreciate this websites help because it gave me almost all of the information i need to know about the element iron. keep up the good work mAYBE i can get an A on my chemistry assignment.
Senna ^-^
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Jan 1, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
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Qaiser Syed
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Jan 20, 2010 @ 2:02 am
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Gee
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Mar 6, 2010 @ 6:06 am
this was very useful for my science project it made it very easy to understand about the properties of the metal iron. thankyou very much (:
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Apr 20, 2010 @ 1:01 am
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May 4, 2010 @ 10:10 am
Thanks very much for this write-up. I found it extremely useful for the school reseach work on iron. Thanks.
Dani
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May 12, 2010 @ 7:19 pm
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May 16, 2010 @ 2:14 pm
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Jul 22, 2010 @ 4:04 am
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Earon V
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Aug 24, 2010 @ 1:13 pm
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EARON
julez
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Sep 3, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
Thank you! Really helped me with my chemistry project!
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Sep 6, 2010 @ 3:03 am
Thanks a bunch :)
I have a 1000 word paper due tomorrow on the properties of iron and this helped me HEAPS. It explains things really clearly, as compared to Wikipedia, etc. Thankyou.
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Sep 13, 2010 @ 8:08 am
Thankyou so very much for this article. It helped me with my science assignment on iron and rust (Fe2O3). You have saved me from detention! thaks again :)
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Sep 16, 2010 @ 3:15 pm
thanks for the info i jotted down some notes for my chemistry project all the other websites where dumb and had little to tell
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Sep 25, 2010 @ 10:10 am
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Roy
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Oct 9, 2010 @ 11:23 pm
I especially enjoyed your pronunciation guide for how to say "Iron."
EYE-um
I'm not making this up!
Emily
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Nov 9, 2010 @ 5:17 pm
Thanks sooo much, and I read somewhere else that Iron is used in chemical warfare.
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Nov 24, 2010 @ 2:14 pm
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Dec 2, 2010 @ 1:13 pm
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Feb 19, 2011 @ 5:05 am
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nadya b.
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Mar 5, 2011 @ 6:06 am
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Mar 11, 2011 @ 10:22 pm
What a great website. Thankyou very much for the helpful informatio. Keep up the good work.
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Mar 14, 2011 @ 7:07 am
Thank you for the brief information about iron related issues .As iam a junior project study officer i am challenged by the current Limonite for coloring materials project.Though i am know confidence i eagerlly waite to tell me
1.The generall application of Limonite ore(Iron oxide ore)
2.Specific Limonite demand /consumption in varios chemical industry sectors
3.How Limonite be marketable (excluding limonite for the purpose of steel)in under developing countries such as Ethiopia
4.Resources(Books,Journals and etc) that tell more about Various types of iron ores and Limonite
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Mar 17, 2011 @ 11:11 am
i think you need to put more things on chemical properties please and thank you
Brina
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Mar 24, 2011 @ 8:20 pm
Thank you so much for this!
I used it for a class project
vinura
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May 21, 2011 @ 9:21 pm
this was grat i love tis site you helped me learn more about science thanks.
Maxii
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Jun 8, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
This was great for my Chemistry project at Poole Grammar. Could you say when and how easily it was extracted from the earths core.
Prashant Kamble.
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Aug 28, 2011 @ 4:04 am
Sir, this is the very beautiful website, loaded with lots of knowledge. I thank you for taking so big efforts and designing such a nice website.
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Aug 31, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
thank you so so much helped me so much !!! so greatful





thaaanks
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Sep 12, 2011 @ 3:03 am
Really helpful information and have demonstrated about IRON perfectly well.
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Sep 20, 2011 @ 5:17 pm
this is so helpful thanx so much i finally did it right im going to get an A+ on my paper
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Sep 29, 2011 @ 1:13 pm
so much information! helped me out alot with my project thank you so much :)
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Oct 9, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
OMGGG!!! this article was sooo helpful. i have to do a report called influential mineral essay. this has all the points i need and even more informaiton! this article is very detailed and organized. i am so happy i chose iron as my mineral! Thanks!!!
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Oct 11, 2011 @ 11:11 am
This was extremely helpful, but what is the difference between Iron-26, and iron-59?
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Oct 15, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
I LIKE THIS INFORMATION SO FER AND WILL BE HELPFUL TO ME.
BUT JUST WANT TO KNOW HOW TO OBTAIN STEEL FROM LOW IRON ORE CONTAIN A LIKE TACONITE.
THANK YOU.
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Oct 29, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
what are the most common ores found that mix with iron???
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Nov 18, 2011 @ 7:07 am
Would it be possible to add a section on impurity elements in iron ores, both beneficial and deleterious. For example, I understand that vanadium is a beneficial impurity but phosphorus and sulphur are harmfuland need to be kept below certain specification in iron ore used for steel making.
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Nov 20, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
I would like to know by which method do I obtain iron from iron(iii)oxide
Hoseface
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Nov 22, 2011 @ 6:18 pm
THIS IS AWSOME!!! THANKS A BUNCH!!!IT TOTALLY HELPED ME WITH MY SIENCE POSTER!!!
Tsinate cheru
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Dec 11, 2011 @ 4:04 am
What is the electronic configuratoin of iron,the applicaton&in what country it produced
Emma
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Feb 9, 2012 @ 3:15 pm
helped me SO much with my science project. thanks so so so so much! you're a life saver!
Becca
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Feb 12, 2012 @ 6:06 am
I have a science project due Thursday wish me luck!
E.t
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Feb 16, 2012 @ 2:14 pm
it had everything i needed for my project thanks so so so so much
Dany
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Feb 20, 2012 @ 6:18 pm
This was very helpful. I have a science project due, and it got all the information that i needed thanks! It even has that atom example! If you could put the dot one that would help even more!
squeege
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May 23, 2012 @ 7:19 pm
Very good coverage.. I had read that iron only occurs in compounds in nature, and this article said the same thing..
mathew
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May 27, 2012 @ 9:09 am
great research done about iron very helpful...i didnt know much about iron but now that i read this page i have an idea of what iron is how its used and the history of iron this would be perfect for my project info.
Not telling
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Jun 18, 2012 @ 1:01 am
If only you said how iron is mined..
Thanks anyways..
Your Mom
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Sep 12, 2012 @ 1:13 pm
#troll haha i can't believe it! this site had all of the info that I needed for my adopt an element project thanks!
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Oct 11, 2012 @ 12:12 pm
ya like i need this is for my adopt a element project like this site has everything
Madison
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Oct 22, 2012 @ 11:11 am
Thanks this was so helpful for my chem project where I was researching Iron!
yoyo
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Nov 7, 2012 @ 8:20 pm
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bitch
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Dec 5, 2012 @ 6:18 pm
this wazzz soo great thanks peopple 4 helping me with an annoyyying project
saria
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Jan 9, 2013 @ 3:15 pm
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johnny
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Jan 22, 2013 @ 3:15 pm
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taremekedzwa
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Feb 27, 2013 @ 8:08 am
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ruslan
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Mar 6, 2013 @ 9:09 am
it helped me alot.it is just me ruslan angell reporting this.
varnika
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Mar 10, 2013 @ 12:12 pm
This is very useful thankyou vey much. I think I know the Most about iron now and I can finish my project!
essence
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Mar 15, 2013 @ 10:10 am
does any one know who discovered rusting of iron???
Kirknay
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Apr 23, 2013 @ 8:20 pm
Oh my gosh! I can't believe I found this site! Thanks for making the assignment I have (a children's storybook about iron, including chemical details) so much easier!
Secret
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Aug 22, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
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Oct 14, 2013 @ 10:22 pm
OH WOW thank you so much i really appreciate it im using this for my atom project of iron thanks anyways love ya i got to Toll Middle School at Glendale California
Afraz
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Nov 3, 2013 @ 4:16 pm
Thanks this website helped me a lot and saved me a lot of time doing me my project.
Muhammad D
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Dec 31, 2013 @ 10:22 pm
This website helped me alot on my science project. has alot of useful information
Bryanna Sampson
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May 28, 2014 @ 6:18 pm
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Athena the Greek Goddess
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May 29, 2014 @ 7:07 am
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Smoothie
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Jul 24, 2014 @ 6:06 am
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hassanwaade
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Sep 8, 2014 @ 11:11 am
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