I for Iron

The origin of the chemical symbol Fe is from the Latin word ‘ferrum’ meaning iron. The word iron itself comes from ‘iren’ in Anglo-Saxon.

One third of Earth’s mass is believed to be iron, most of which lies deep within the planet, in the core. There is enough iron on Earth to make three new planets, each with the same mass as Mars.

Circulation of liquid iron deep in the earth is believed to create the electric currents that create our planet’s magnetic field.

In ancient times, people did not know how very abundant iron was on Earth. Their only source of metallic iron was meteorites. From Assyrian writings we learn that iron was eight times more valuable than gold. In addition to its rarity, iron may also have been very desirable because, coming from the sky, it was thought to be a gift from the gods: the ancient Egyptians called it ‘ba-ne-pe’, meaning ‘metal of heaven.’ The connection with heaven is reinforced by Pyramid Texts which translate, for example, to: ‘my bones are iron and my limbs are the imperishable stars.

Iron was the first magnetic metal discovered. Lodestones were used by ancient navigators because they could be used as compasses, pointing to the magnetic north pole; this was described by the ancient Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus in 600 BC. Lodestones were made from magnetite, which is a naturally occurring oxide of iron. Magnetite’s formula is FeO.Fe2O3.

Some animals have a sixth sense – the magnetic sense. Magnetite has been found in a wide range of animals, including honey bees, homing pigeons, and dolphins. These animals are sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field, helping their ability to navigate.

The Hoba meteorite in Namibia is the largest naturally occurring piece of iron in the world, weighing in at over 60 tons. It’s made of 82 – 83% iron. The Hoba meteorite is the largest single meteorite ever found.

Iron is ferromagnetic. Ferromagnetism is the strongest type of magnetism. Other common ferromagnetic metals are nickel and cobalt. Very powerful magnets can be made using iron, nickel or cobalt in association with rare earth metals. NIB magnets (Neodymium – Iron – Boron) were invented in the early 1980s. They are used in computers, cell phones, medical equipment, toys, motors, wind turbines and audio systems.

References : Chemicool.com


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