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Ferrous Metal: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Definition of Ferrous
  • 0:44 Ferrous Properties
  • 1:23 Examples of Ferrous Metals
  • 2:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Ferrous metals have many important uses - chances are you've seen a ferrous metal today! This lesson will define ferrous metals, list some of their properties, and then conclude with examples.

Definition of Ferrous

When you hear 'ferrous' you may think of a giant wheel at the fair, but in this case, ferris and ferrous are not only spelled differently, they mean two different things. In chemistry, ferrous means a substance contains iron. Whether or not you notice it, ferrous metals are all around you.

Wait, ferrous sure doesn't sound like the word 'iron', so why in the world does ferrous mean 'containing iron'? Well, it's actually a Latin word for iron, and the more you study chemistry, the more you'll start to notice how Latin and Greek word origins sneak into naming stuff. In fact, ferrous is so synonymous with iron that iron is even abbreviated as 'Fe' on the periodic table.

Ferrous Properties

So what's the big deal about ferrous metals? Well, metals that contain iron have unique properties that non-ferrous metals do not share. For starters, ferrous metals are not malleable, meaning they do not bend as easily as the non-ferrous metals. Some ferrous metals are extraordinarily strong, long-lasting, and magnetic. These characteristics are beneficial for building or for use in certain industries.

A downside to the ferrous metals is that they tend to rust, meaning an orange coating appears on the metal when it is exposed to air and water. Not only does rust look bad, it can weaken the metal, making it a damaging characteristic most of the ferrous metals share.

Rust creates a red coating on ferrous metals
rust

Examples of Ferrous Metals

Now that you know some of the characteristics ferrous metals share, let's take a look at some examples, starting with a familiar metal: steel. Steel is made when the non-metal carbon is mixed with iron. The carbon makes the iron even stronger, thus making it ideal for constructing bridges, railroads, large skyscrapers, and yes, probably even ferris wheels!

Because of its strength, steel is used as a skeleton, or frame, for many structures
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The next ferrous metal is carbon steel, which is basically steel with even more carbon added to it to make it even stronger. It is often used in tools like drills and chisels.

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