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Oxygen is a nonmetal, so it attracts the bond electrons towards itself more strongly than iron does, giving it a greater number of electrons to share with the iron in the compound. This gives the bonding in iron oxide a lower melting point than that of iron.
Adding carbon to the iron in the oxidation process lowers its melting point even further, making it a steel. Moreover, the atoms in steel are different from those in iron alone.
What makes this difference?
Besides being a different type of metal, adding carbon to pure iron also changes the way it combines with other elements. That is why steel is much stronger than iron by itself.
Natural iron oxide pigments can be reduced to fine powders, but this requires pulverizing the ore in a grinder or hammer mill before classifying and crushing. Alternatively, lump ore may be smashed and dried or calcined, either in a rotary kiln or a steam kiln.
The size of the iron oxide particles is an important determinant of their suitability for coating applications. Pigments of large agglomerates, including those containing micaceous iron oxide (Fe2O3), are difficult to screen. They produce speckles that may resist screening, and ball milling may be necessary to remove the agglomerates before they can be used.
Iron oxide pigments are available in a wide range of sizes, from relatively coarse agglomerates to pulverized powders that have particle sizes from very small micrometers to a few hundredths of a micrometer in the case of transparent oxides. Regardless of the origin, iron oxide pigments are highly durable and exhibit good resistance to light, cement, and lime.