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Iron powder is used as a raw material for manufacturing and various industries. It has the ability to be compressed into a small size and is categorized by its purity, grain size and density. The characteristics of iron powder vary depending on the manufacturing method. It is commonly used in manufacturing processes such as powder metallurgy, which requires press forming and heat treatment. Other applications include the production of EMI/RFI shielding products and precision electronic components.
When combined with a binding agent, it can form an arc electrode used in welding and cutting. It is also found in coatings and fillers that can increase the strength of metal materials. For example, it is added to polymer and plastic to create a stronger and more durable material that can withstand higher temperatures. The addition of iron to materials can also make them magnetic.
Pure iron is typically soft and oxidizes quickly. For this reason, it is not found naturally as a free element but rather in minerals such as magnetite, hematite, goethite and siderite. Commercially, it is produced as a hard alloy called steel, which has about 2% carbon and varying amounts of silicon, phosphorus, sulfur and manganese to obtain specific physical and chemical properties.
In humans, it is a necessary element for the production of hemoglobin and is essential in treating and preventing iron deficiency anemia. It is also a common ingredient in over-the-counter multivitamins and iron supplements. In high doses, iron can cause serious toxicities such as liver damage.