Iron Smelting

2Fe2O3 + 3C → 4Fe + 3CO2 -- A Chemical Reaction

What is iron smelting?

Smelting iron is the process of heating a mined iron ore to separate the pure iron of the rock from the rest of the minerals in the ore.


2Fe2O3 + 3C → 4Fe + 3CO2

Two molecules of Iron (III) Oxide combines with three Carbon atoms to produce four Iron atoms and three molecules of Carbon Dioxide.

Mole to Mole Ratios

  • 2 mole of Fe2O3 to 3 moles C
  • 1 mole Fe2O3 to 2 moles Fe
  • 1 mole Fe2O3 to 3 moles CO2
  • 3 moles C to 4 moles Fe
  • 1 mole C to 1 mole CO2
  • 4 moles Fe to 3 moles CO2

Impact on the Industrial Revolution

Although the Romans had figured out how to mass produce pure iron, the technique was lost in the fall of the Roman Empire and as far as we know, did not reappear again until it helped to make the Industrial Revolution a reality.

The British originally burned timber to produce the heat needed to smelt iron, but they depleted their forests much faster than expected because of the high demand. They needed an alternative energy source which was not wood-based, so they started using coal. This new innovation was encouraged by inventions such as Henry Cort's puddling furnace which used coal sources to purify iron.

The steam engine also came about as a result of the switch to coal-based energy as a method provide more air flow through the furnace. Later, the invention of the railroad combined both the steam engine and rails made of iron.

British's access to the natural resources of iron and coal helped to contribute to the Industrial Revolution's ability to start there. By the early 19th century, Britain was making about half of all iron goods for continental Europe.


**1 significant figure**

Limiting reactant:

  • 100g Fe2O3 * (1 mol Fe2O3 / 159.7g Fe2O3) * (2 mol Fe / 1 mol Fe2O3) = 1.25 mol Fe -> 1 mol Fe
  • 100g Fe2O3 * (1 mol Fe2O3 / 159.7g Fe2O3) * (3 mol CO2 / 2 mol Fe2O3) = 0.94 mol CO2 -> 1 mol CO2
  • 100g C * (1 mol C / 12.01g C) * (4 mol Fe / 3 mol C) = 11 mol Fe -> 10 mol Fe
  • 100g C * (1 mol C / 12.01g C) * (1 mol CO2 / 1 mol C) = 8 mol CO2
  • Fe2O3 is the limiting reactant because it is only able to produce 1 mole of each product, whereas C can produce 10 moles of Fe and 8 moles of CO2.

Theoretical Yield:

  • 1 mol Fe * (55.85g Fe / 1 mol Fe) = 55.85g Fe -> 60g Fe
  • 1 mol CO2 * (44.01g CO2 / 1 mol CO2) = 44.01g CO2 -> 40g CO2
  • The theoretical yield of this reaction with 100g of each reactant is 60g Fe and 40g CO2.