Chemistry + Longevity: Redox, Iron Oxide & Reverse Rusting

Studio Shangri-La Industrial

Sometimes a mere change in verbiage can expand perspective. Case in point: Referring to a gain in electron flow as “reduction.” When it comes to nature though, gains and losses are actually exchange because energy cannot be destroyed. (1)

The oxidation-reduction reaction is a complimentary process of electron transfer referred to as “redox” in which an electron moves from one atom to another.

A biological example of redox is that the imbalance of charged particles or ions across cell membranes signals muscles to contract and extend. In this electrochemical process, imbalance is vital.

Rusting or corrosion is oxidation and so can also be viewed as a redox reaction. Iron combines with oxygen and water, and produces Iron Oxide.

Nontoxic and biocompatible, Iron Oxide plays an important role in biological and geological processes, as a catalyst. Oxidized iron is also an integral part of heme – and hemoglobin – in the blood, responsible for oxygen transport. (2)

While oxidation is portrayed sometimes as having negative effects, in the above case it is clearly productive. The same goes for unpaired electrons, or “free radicals.”

Current Iron Oxide research – pun intended – includes the attributes of superparamagnetism and “Reverse Rusting,” a process at the nanoscale which involves slowing down oxidation and even reversing it using pressure, temperature and a Transmission Electron Microscope. (3) The development of Iron-air batteries that make use of reverse rusting are even underway here in Massachusetts.

Side note :: On a more practical everyday scale, potato and lemon [acid] can be used to remove rust. And utility poles have Magnesium Ion stakes that prevent iron’s oxidation.

Endnote: When iron oxidizes it is returning to its natural state as ore, so that too could be viewed as a reversal process.


Published by sarah ikerd

@sarah.ikerd / owner

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