Steel, an alloy of carbon and iron, has many significant advantages in terms of durability and versatility. This article deals with the components of steel and its physical properties.
Physical Properties of Iron
What are the physical properties of Iron? Here you will find a description of all the prominent physical characteristics of the metallic element.
Every one of the 92 naturally occurring elements, including Iron, has a unique physical and chemical profile. Through years of painstaking research, scientists have carefully studied all the properties of Iron, as it is one of the prime metals used in industrial applications and production of steel.
From its Latin name – ‘Ferrum‘, Iron derives its abbreviated chemical name of ‘Fe’. It’s atomic number is 26, with an electronic configuration which is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 3d6 4s2. Belonging to the group of transition metals, the standard atomic weight of Iron is known to be 55.845 g/mol. It is a group 8 element, belonging to the fourth period and known as a d block element.
Iron is a part of the inner and outer core of the Earth’s crust (constituting a total of 5% of Earth’s crust), contributing to the creation of Earth’s magnetic field. Iron has an important biological application, as the prime constituent of the oxygen carrying molecule called Hemoglobin. Mined in the form of Magnetite, Hematite and Goethite in Canada, USA, South Africa, Sweden, India, Russia and Japan the average annual production of this metal is known to be around 716 million tons.
Physical Properties of Iron Element
Pure iron is known to be a soft metal, with a silver white or grayish color. Some of its most important properties are ductility, malleability and thermal conductivity. Malleability lets Iron be beaten into sheets, without cleavage and ductility makes it possible for thin wires to be drawn from it.
Iron’s internal electronic configuration and peculiar crystalline structure makes it to be naturally attractive to magnets. In other words, it is known to be a ferromagnetic material.
What made Iron popular as a metal, was its property of high inherent tensile strength, which makes it easier to give it shape. Iron has tensile strength, which provides structural solidity to any structure.
There are four types of Iron atoms, each with the same atomic number, but different atomic weights. In other words, there are four isotopes of Iron, ranging from 54Fe, 56Fe, 57Fe and 58Fe. Among all four, 56Fe is the most abundant, with an abundance of 91.754% on Earth and it is known as the most stable nucleus.
The density of Iron, in solid phase is known to be 7.874 gm/cm3, with a liquid or molten density of 6.98 gm/cm3. Iron has a melting point of 1538 ºC (1811 K) and a boiling point of 2862 ºC (3134 K).
Iron does not possess a singular form of crystalline structure, but shows three different forms or ‘allotropes’. These three allotropic forms of Iron are known as delta, gamma and alpha Iron. Iron exists in these three different allotropic forms, at different temperatures, as it cools down from molten form.
The delta allotrope of Iron has a ‘Body Centered Cubic (BCC)’ structure, gamma Iron has a ‘Face Centered Cubic’ structure, while alpha Iron again has a ‘Body Centered Cubic (BCC)’ structure. The last allotropic form (Alpha Carbon) is also the most stable of the three structures. The transition from one form to the other, under application of heat, transforms the properties of Iron.
Iron is mostly used in the form of alloys today and primarily as the prime constituent element of steel alloys. As discussed before, Iron is the last element to be synthesized in the stellar furnace through nuclear fusion and is known to be the fourth most abundant element in the entire universe. With its rich combination of inherent properties, the uses of Iron are many. It is the primary driving force behind the industrial revolution providing structural solidity in the form of Steel!