You will observe that iron nails rust in test tube A, but they do not rust in test tubes B and C. In the test tube A, the nails are exposed to both air and water. In the test tube B, the nails are exposed to only water, and the nails in test tube C are exposed to dry air. What does this tell us about the conditions under which iron articles rust?
The rusting of iron can be prevented by painting, oiling, greasing, galvanising, chrome plating, anodising or making alloys.
Galvanisation is a method of protecting steel and iron from rusting by coating them with a thin layer of zinc. The galvanised article is protected against rusting even if the zinc coating is broken. Can you reason this out?
Alloying is a very good method of improving the properties of a metal. We can get the desired properties by this method. For example, iron is the most widely used metal. But it is never used in its pure state. This is because pure iron is very soft and stretches easily when hot. But, if it is mixed with a small amount of carbon (about 0.05 %), it becomes hard and strong. When iron is mixed with nickel and chromium, we get stainless steel, which is hard and does not rust. Thus, if iron is mixed with some other substance, its properties change. In fact, the properties of any metal can be changed if it is mixed with some other substance.
The substance added may be a metal or a non-metal. An alloy is a homogeneous mixture of two or more metals, or a metal and a nonmetal. It is prepared by first melting the primary metal, and then, dissolving the other elements in it in definite proportions. It is then cooled to room temperature.
Pure gold, known as 24 carat gold, is very soft. It is, therefore, not suitable for making jewellery. It is alloyed with either silver or copper to make it hard. Generally, in India, 22 carat gold is used for making ornaments. It means that 22 parts of pure gold is alloyed with 2 parts of either copper or silver.
If one of the metals is mercury, then the alloy is known as an amalgam. The electrical conductivity and melting point of an alloy is less than that of pure metals. For example, brass, an alloy of copper and zinc (Cu and Zn), and bronze, an alloy of copper and tin (Cu and Sn), are not good conductors of electricity whereas copper is used for making electrical circuits. Solder, an alloy of lead and tin (Pb and Sn), has a low melting point and is used for welding electrical wires together.
The wonder of ancient Indian metallurgy
The iron pillar near the Qutub Minar in Delhi was built more than 1600 years ago by the iron workers of India. They had developed a process which prevented iron from rusting. For its quality of rust resistance it has been examined by scientists from all parts of the world. The iron pillar is 8 m high and weighs 6 tonnes (6000 kg).
1. Metallic oxides of zinc, magnesium and copper were heated with the following metals.
In which cases will you find displacement reactions taking place?
2. Which metals do not corrode easily?
3. What are alloys?