More Lessons for IGCSE Chemistry
A series of free IGCSE Chemistry Activities and Experiments (Cambridge IGCSE Chemistry).
Extraction of iron
Very unreactive metals are found directly in the ground as elements, eg. gold.
Most metals are found in ores where they have reacted with other elements.
Ores are rocks containing enough metal to make it economical to extract.
We can extract the iron by reacting the iron oxide with a more reactive element.
The more reactive element takes away the oxygen.
Removing oxygen is called reduction. This is carried out by the carbon.
Iron oxide is mixed with carbon and heated in a blast furnace. This produces iron.
The following diagram shows how to extract iron from iron ore in a blast furnace.
How to extract iron in an iron furnace?
Iron is extracted from iron ore in a huge container called a blast furnace. Iron ores such as haematite contain iron oxide. The oxygen must be removed from the iron oxide to leave the iron behind. Reactions in which oxygen is removed are called reduction reactions.
Carbon is more reactive than iron, so it can push out or displace the iron from iron oxide. Here are the equations for the reaction:
iron oxide + carbon → iron + carbon dioxide
+ 3C → 4Fe + 3CO2
In this reaction, the iron oxide is reduced to iron, and the carbon is oxidised to carbon dioxide.
In the blast furnace, it is so hot that carbon monoxide can be used to reduce the iron oxide in place of carbon:
iron oxide + carbon monoxide → iron + carbon dioxide
+ 3CO → 2Fe + 3CO2
Iron from the blast furnace is an alloy of about 96 per cent iron with carbon and some other impurities. It is hard, but too brittle for most uses. So, most iron from the blast furnace is converted into steel by removing some of the carbon.
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