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Iron is a chemical element that has the symbol Fe which comes from the Latin word ‘ferrum’. It is one of the most common elements on Earth, making up the Earths outer and inner core and the fourth most common within the Earth’s crust. Iron’s great quantity in rocky planets such as Earth is primarily down to its abundant production of fusion in high-mass stars, where it is the production of nickel (decaying to the most common isotope of iron) that is the last nuclear fusion reaction that is exothermic.
It is proven that iron has been around for many years with ancient people using it as early as in 4000BC. They used it for making various tools, weapons and other objects. It is believed that they obtained the iron from meteorites. The earliest artefacts known of iron were said that nickel was higher than native iron ores on Earth, in keeping the composition of meteorites which lead to the word iron coming from the ancient meaning for ‘metal in the sky’. In the 1890s when Admiral Robert Peary visited Greenland he discovered that the Inuit had been making iron tools for many years from a 30-ton iron meteorite that had fallen several centuries earlier. By the 17th century irons properties become well understood, but with the increase in urbanisation in Europe meant that there was a higher demand for other versatile structural metals. This lead to there being masses amount of iron being consumed by expanding railroads in the 19th century, which provided metallurgists with the financial incentive to find a solution to iron’s brittleness and ineffective production processes.
At high temperatures, iron starts to absorb carbon causing it lower the melting point of the metal, which in turn results in cast iron (around 4.5% carbon). The production of cast iron increased greatly within the 6th century BC but more so in Europe during the Middle Ages, as this was when the development of blast furnaces began.
Iron is known to be a considerably strong and hard metal that is not that expensive to purchase, it is actually fairly cheap, hence the reason why it is commonly used for manufacturing machine tools, automobiles, hulls of large ships, machine parts and also as building parts. Many structural parts today are made up of metallic iron. It is probably one of the most precious metals in the sense that it would be a greatly missed element by man.
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