Iron is a metal in the first transition series. It is by mass the most common element on Earth, forming much of Earth’s outer and inner core.

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Iron is used in numerous sectors such as electronics, manufacturing, automotive, and construction and building. Iron is the most widely used of all the metals, accounting for over 90% of worldwide metal production.

The main mining areas for iron are China, Australia, Brazil, Russia, and Ukraine. Worlds annual iron ore production is about 1600 milion tonnes.


Protons and Neutrons in Iron

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Iron is a chemical element with atomic number 26 which means there are 26 protons in its nucleus. Total number of protons in the nucleus is called the atomic number of the atom and is given the symbol Z. The total electrical charge of the nucleus is therefore +Ze, where e (elementary charge) equals to 1,602 x 10-19 coulombs.

The total number of neutrons in the nucleus of an atom is called the neutron number of the atom and is given the symbol N. Neutron number plus atomic number equals atomic mass number: N+Z=A. The difference between the neutron number and the atomic number is known as the neutron excess: D = N – Z = A – 2Z.

For stable elements, there is usually a variety of stable isotopes. Isotopes are nuclides that have the same atomic number and are therefore the same element, but differ in the number of neutrons. Mass numbers of typical isotopes of Iron are 56; 57; 58. 

Main Isotopes of Iron

Iron has four stable isotopes: 54Fe (5.845% of natural iron), 56Fe (91.754%), 57Fe (2.119%) and 58Fe (0.282%). 20-30 artificial isotopes have also been created.

Iron-54 is composed of 26 protons, 28 neutrons, and 26 electrons.

Iron-56 is composed of 26 protons, 30 neutrons, and 26 electrons.

Iron-57 is composed of 26 protons, 31 neutrons, and 26 electrons.

Iron-58 is composed of 26 protons, 32 neutrons, and 26 electrons.

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Iron-56 is the most stable nucleus. It is most efficiently bound and has the lowest average mass per nucleon (930.412 MeV/c2). Nickel-62, iron-58 and iron-56 are the most tightly bound nuclei. It takes more energy per nucleon to take one of these nuclei completely apart than it takes for any other nucleus.