Fun Facts about Iron

Iron is the most common element on the planet Earth and humans have been manipulating it for various uses for almost 5,000 years. Iron in its most base form is softer than aluminum, but when it is smelted with carbon, it becomes a super strong element that is the foundation of modern society. Aside from its uses in technology and construction, iron is also very important to the biological process. Without iron, hemoglobin would not exist and therefore, oxygen transport for nearly all life on earth would be impossible. While these are just a few of the common facts about iron, here are a few you may not know.

1. The chemical symbol for iron is Fe, which is derived from its Latin name, ferrum. The modern name for iron is derived from the Scandinavian word for the metal, iarn.

2. Iron is typically formed by fusion in stars that have enough mass. Large stars such as the sun contain many times the amount of iron as the earth.

3. While iron is a necessary component of hemoglobin, too much iron can be toxic and even lethal. Any iron in the body that is not absorbed to create hemoglobin can damage cellular structure, including DNA. This damage can lead to severe illness and sometimes death. 60mg of iron per kilogram of body weight is considered lethal to humans.

4. Despite iron being one of the most abundant elements in the universe, it is almost never found in its pure state. Nearly all modern iron is extracted from hematite ore.

5. Indians were one of the first people to master the art of extracting and smelting iron many years before Europeans. The Iron Pillar located in Delhi is said to be over 1600 years old and in all its time it has not corroded or rusted.

6. Despite iron being one of the oldest workable metals for early humans to create tools from, these tools are also the rarest archaeological discoveries due to how susceptible iron is to corrosion.

7. A new strain of bacteria called Halmonas Titanicae was discovered in 1991 on pieces of the wrecked ocean liner the R.M.S. Titanic. This new bacteria devours the iron of the sunken ship at an alarming rate and may have applications elsewhere where large amounts of iron are needed to be disintegrated quickly.

8. Cast iron has been processed in China since around 550BC, but the technology to create it was not known to Europeans until medieval times and even then, the quality of metal produced by the European technique was inferior and become known as pig iron until further refined.

9. China is the world's largest producer of iron, with Australia, India, and Brazil following closely behind in terms of output.

10. Iron can be rust-proofed by coating it with several different compounds to keep oxygen in the atmosphere from reacting with it. These seals can last nearly forever, but once broken the iron below the seal will begin to oxidize nearly immediately.