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iron carbide is a metastable iron compound and a corrosion product of steel. It is found in the microstructure of steel after a portion of ferrite has partially corroded, and it can be characterized as a layered structure with a ferrite core and a cementite envelope.
Cementite is a common constituent of plain carbon steels and cast irons. When a molten iron alloy is slowly cooled, a fraction of the carbon (up to 7%) will form in the cementite phase. In some cases, the cementite combines with ferrite, a by-product of austenite, to form bainite and pearlite or a layered structure.
This metastable compound can be used to improve corrosion resistance of steel by inhibiting ferrous ions from resolving in the solution, and it also impedes organic corrosion inhibitors from adsorbing on the underlying steel surface. However, iron carbide is a complex compound and its mechanisms for inhibiting corrosion have not yet been fully understood.
iron carbide has a high melting point, a strong magnetic field and is a good choice for applications that require a high concentration of iron. It can be produced from a wide range of minerals and is available in powder, submicron and nanoscale forms. The elemental and mineralogical compositions of iron carbide can be modified to improve its properties, including magnetism and hardness.