Navigation Menu
How Iron Works

How Iron Works

By on Mar 20, 2020 in Uses of Iron

Even before modern civilisation, iron was still a crucial aspect of life. Toolmakers back in the day were making implements using meteorites which weren’t as abundant as iron is now. However, iron exists in the form of iron ore which has to be mined from the ground.

To get iron from the ore, smelting has to take place, and this is usually done under very high heat which transitions the ore into a spongy state. In the process, chemical compounds are broken down.

The Process Of Extracting Iron

Initially, iron ore was placed in a bloomery where it was burned together with charcoal. After an intense burning process, the carbon released by the charcoal combined with the oxygen creating carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. When the process is done, what is left is the iron metal.

However, there have been technological advancements in how iron is extracted from the ore. The blast furnace has made the process easier, less tedious and saves on time. In this, the blast furnace is usually charged with iron ore and charcoal. Air is then passed through the bottom of the furnace. During this process, liquid iron settles underneath the furnace, but it has to be let out to cool down for collection.

Once the liquid has cooled down, this is what is known as pig iron which isn’t useful as it contains high amounts of carbon making it brittle. Pig iron can be taken through further refining to improve on quality. When most of the impurities have been removed, the result is steel which has tiny amounts of carbon.

The abundance of iron ore on the earth’s surface and the availability of oil and coal have made iron production easier. Without iron, the world would never be what it is today. Almost everything from the buildings we live in, to the most essential items such as the pots used in the kitchen, iron has been part of human existence. Notably, modern plants use oxygen furnaces to create steel, and with technology evolving every single day, iron making is also bound to change. Scientists have also done studies showing how iron can be used to slow down global warming. Who knows? Iron could be the missing link in the fight against one of the most significant challenges the world has been grappling with.