The Properties of Iron

The chemical symbol for iron, Fe, comes from the Latin word for iron - ferrum. Iron is the second most abundant metal in the Earth's crust (aluminium is the most abundant metal). The core of the Earth is solid iron, and iron is found in meteorites, but in the Earth's crust iron is found mainly as minerals of iron oxide - hematite, magnetite, goethite and limonite. The mineral which is mostly used as ore for making iron is hematite. Its chemical formula is Fe2O3.

Iron is about 8 times heavier than water (its relative density is 7.87). When iron is exposed to the air it starts to turn back into iron oxide and the red powder that forms on the surface of iron is what we call rust. You may have seen rust on old cars or old iron sheds or roofs. To make iron stronger and less likely to rust it can be combined with carbon and other elements to make steel.

The mineral magnetite is very magnetic, and if you dangle a piece on a length of string it will orient itself north-south. Iron and some alloys of iron are also magnetic.

The Properties of Iron
Chemical Symbol: Fe
Mineral: iron oxides: eg hematite and magnetite
Relative density: 7.87
Malleability: High
Ductility: High
Melting point: 1535°C
Atomic Mass: 55.85

hematite sample

magnetite sample

NEXT: Iron in Australia, or Start the Quiz!

Minerals Downunder Exploration Contents