why is rust formed on iron ?

Dear student!

The rusting occurs because of the reaction of iron or other corrosive metals with atmospheric oxygen and moisture which forms iron (III) hydrated oxides and iron (III) oxide-hydroxide.

The rusting process occurs in presence of water and atmospheric oxygen as:

4Fe + 2H2O + 3O2 ->  4FeO(OH) or 

the hydrated molecule is also written as Fe2O3 .nH2

Actually, this is a chemical change that occurs over the metal surface to prevent it from further corrosion, as the iron oxide makes a layer or coating over the rest surface which saves iron from further corrosion.

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Rust is the common name for a very common compound, iron oxide. Iron oxide, the chemical Fe2O3, is common because iron combines very readily with oxygen. This open-air oxidization of iron is called rust; it is because of this pure iron is rarely seen in nature. Iron or steel rusting is a common example of corrosion -- an electrochemical process involving an anode, an electrolyte and a cathode.

For iron to rust, three things are needed: iron, water and oxygen. Here's what happens when the three get together:

When a drop of water (with dissolved oxygen in it) hits an iron object, two things begin to happen almost immediately. First, the water, a good electrolyte, combines with carbon dioxide in the air to form a weak carbonic acid, an even better electrolyte. As the acid is formed and the iron dissolved, some of the water will begin to break down into its component pieces -- hydrogen and oxygen. The free oxygen and dissolved iron bond into iron oxide, in the process freeing electrons. The electrons liberated from the anode portion of the iron flow to the cathode, which may be a piece of a metal less electrically reactive than iron, or another point on the piece of iron itself.

The chemical compounds found in liquids like acid rain, seawater and the salt-loaded spray from snow-belt roads make them better electrolytes than pure water, allowing their presence to speed the process of rusting on iron and other forms of corrosion on other metals.

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