On the Periodic Table of Elements, which element has the chemical symbol Fe?

And the answer: Iron.    

Iron gets its symbol of Fe from the Latin word ferrum, which means "firmness." Making up 5% of the Earth’s crust, iron is found in abundance and is the most-used metal on the planet.

Photo credit: Chemistry Learner

Iron is an element that has played an integral role in human history. From its discovery during the Iron Age around 1200 BCE, to its ubiquitous use in anything from manufacturing to transportation today, iron is an incredibly strong, yet brittle substance that gives form to life as we know it.

Interestingly, iron is found in abundance beyond our planet. It forms the core of every planet in our solar system, and has even been discovered in the cores of stars. In fact, the classic, dusty red color of Mars can be attributed to high amounts of iron oxide (AKA rust) on its surface. Even more fascinating: the earliest uses of iron on our planet are thought to have derived from iron meteorites that fell to Earth. Meteoric iron was, at the time, the only naturally available source of iron, as the metal reacts readily with oxygen to create iron ore. Because there is no oxygen in space, meteors delivered the material to Earth in a form that humans could use without having the technology to extract it from its ore. From there, humans began to form the basis of knowledge which would eventually allow them to not only extract but thrive with this powerful element.

Iron is also abundantly present in our blood. In fact, our blood is red because of the interaction between oxygen and iron. Iron is essential throughout most bodily processes, but it is perhaps best known for its role in hemoglobin production. Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs (AKA breathing). Bodily deficiencies in iron can create a plethora of problems, from the common anemia to breathing problems and more.

Yet, such uses are only the tip of the iceberg in the ways that iron allows us to survive. Learn more about its history, uses and other essential roles here.

And now, a joke.

What do you call a big, spinning carnival ride made of iron?

A ferrous wheel.


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