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“Does Rust Eat Iron?”

Simply Science 5

Rust, a flaky reddish-brown substance, can be described as "eating away" at iron, even if it’s not in the biological sense! Rust is the result of a chemical reaction between iron, oxygen, and water, and it causes the deterioration of iron and iron-containing alloys like steel.

Here's how rust formation occurs:

  • Iron or steel surfaces exposed to the atmosphere come into contact with oxygen.

  • The presence of moisture, such as water or even humidity, is necessary for rusting to occur. Water provides the necessary medium for the chemical reaction.

  • The iron in the metal reacts with oxygen and, through a series of reactions, forms rust. The chemical reaction can be simplified as follows:

iron + oxygen + water → hydrated iron oxide (rust)

(hydrated means that water is associated with it)

  • As rust forms, it gradually converts the metal to rust at the surface of the iron or steel. This process weakens the metal and can eventually lead to structural damage or failure if left if not attended to.

So, while "eating away" might not be a literal consumption like the biological process, rusting is a corrosive chemical reaction that gradually erodes iron or steel structures, causing them to weaken and deteriorate over time.

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