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What are Iron Oxides?

iron oxide stained cave wall

Iron Oxides Simply Explained

Iron oxides are chemical compounds made up of oxygen and iron atoms. They're commonly found in Earth's crust.  Iron oxides occur in a variety of forms including as minerals, rocks and soil.

The main iron oxides are hematite and magnetite.

Iron oxides can be found in soil as a result of the weathering of rocks and minerals. The weathering process releases iron which then reacts with oxygen and water.

The most common type of iron oxide is rust.  Rust forms when iron is exposed to oxygen and moisture.

Iron oxides have been used as a pigment for thousands of years.  The Chauvet cave in southern France is a prehistoric cave that contains some of the oldest cave art in the world.

The earliest art dates back approximately 36,500 years. It includes animals, human figures and abstract designs.

The art in the Chauvet cave was created using a variety of techniques and materials including charcoal, red ochre and other pigments. The majority of the pigments used came from minerals such as iron oxide, manganese and charcoal.

Iron oxides are a diverse group of compounds with a wide range of natural and industrial uses. They play a vital role in industry and are an important component of Earth's crust.

Article Photo

Our photo is of an iron oxide stained limestone cave wall in Western Ohio.  Courtesy of James St. John. It's clickable and redirects to the original image. 

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