Formation of iron oxide

Steel wool reacts with oxygen to form iron oxide according to the equation below

3O2(g) + 2Fe(s) => 2Fe2O3(s)

The reaction is commonly known as rusting. The oxygen oxidises the iron metal and when the rate of reaction is increased the enormous amount of heat released is evident.

How do we increase the rate of reaction?
We increase the surface area by using steel wool and increase the speed of the reactants by heating.

Step 1 Heat some steel wool with a bunsen burner.

Step 2 Bring the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner, working in reverse, near the glowing metal. Take care not to point the nozzle towards people.

The heat produced by the oxidation reaction is such that some of the steel wool melts into balls of iron.



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