The Detroit Post
Tuesday, 19 October, 2021

Can Rust Be Converted Back To Iron

James Lee
• Sunday, 01 November, 2020
• 7 min read

c) Colorized SEM image of nanoblades after 1 hour of reduction reaction at 500 °C in molecular hydrogen, showing the Sawtooth shape along the edges (square). Among the most abundant minerals on Earth, iron oxides play a leading role in magnetic data storage, cosmetics, the pigmentation of paints and drug delivery.



These materials also serve as catalysts for several types of chemical reactions, including the production of ammonia for fertilizer. But to do so, researchers need a detailed, atomic-level understanding of reduction, a key chemical reaction that iron oxides undergo.

In studying the reduction reaction, the researchers identified a previously unknown intermediate state in the transformation from magnetite to hematite. In the middle stage, the iron oxide retained its original chemical structure, Fe 2 O 3, but changed the crystallographic arrangement of its atoms from rhomboidal (a diagonally stretched cube) to cubic.

This intermediate state featured a defect in which oxygen atoms fail to populate some sites in the crystal that they normally would. Impossible, they said, like the dream of ancient alchemists of turning metal into gold.

Now patents are pending on a corrosion-reversal apparatus likely to revolutionize the worlds of museum restoration and archeology when it goes into production next year. Possible industrial applications may also mean rust -to-riches for Ash down and the few who believed in him despite the scientific skeptics.

Ash down's research and subsequent refinement of the rust -to- iron process was based on what is known as plasma chemistry, which removes corrosion without destructive mechanical and chemical scraping. A corroded object is placed in a vacuum and electrically bombarded with hydrogen molecules, which react with the ferrous oxide, or rust.

metal rescue

After several hours most of the rust converts to hard iron -- and the object is back to its original shape and size. “Our standard apparatus going into production next year is about the same size as a steamer trunk,” says Eugene Her, director of the Swiss Institute of Arms and Armor, where Ash down did his research.

But we have plans for equipment large enough to handle much larger items such as cannons from the Mary Rose, the Tudor ship recently dredged up in England.” “By contrast, it can take months to remove a hard crust from something like a long-buried belt buckle,” Her says.

An iron nail will rust slowly in distilled water when that water has dissolved oxygen. If you get rid of the oxygen by boiling and keep it from getting back in then the iron nail will not rust at all.

Liquids do not rust, iron does, rust is Hydrated Iron (III) oxide, so the only substance which canrustiron is water If we have equal volume of pure iron and rust (ferric oxide) then rust is lighter than iron.

If rust is forming on a wheelbarrow, it is already magnetic. Iron is always magnetic, so an iron wheelbarrow would be magnetic regardless of whether it had no rust or lots of rust on it.

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In our desperation, we'll even gamble on exotic potions and remedies that promise to cover, neutralize, or eradicate the stuff. While our threatening arsenal of abrasives and chemicals vow to undo decades of decay, they may just reassign the damage to our own fragile innards.

When elbows up in some caustic bath or hours into breathing pulverized silica, it's easy to wonder if there's a better way. For some time now, restorers who work with relatively delicate objects like clocks and antique tools have very effectively removed rust from intricate steel mechanisms and massive iron castings without damaging either the parts or themselves.

Unlike caustic, acidic, or abrasive techniques, this process doesn't generate a toxic aftermath. It also has something else going for it that no other method can reliably duplicate: It can break the tenacious bonds that otherwise freeze rusty mechanisms and fasteners in their place.

How It Workers is the byproduct of an electrochemical reaction between positively and negatively charged electrodes in the presence of an electrolytic solution. Once that reduced oxygen encounters a lesser- or negatively charged part (through the electrolyte), it will surrender its spare electrons.

As outlandish as it sounds, it means the reduction process actually converts the oxidized material that clings to good steel back to a simple iron compound. Our electrolytic solution consists of nothing more than a basic mix of one to two tablespoons of sodium carbonate, otherwise known as washing soda, per gallon of plain of' water.

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Personal experience has proven that this is a process best left to an overnight plunge (once again, see “Safety and Disposal” sidebar for additional information). If you can fight your instant gratification urges, you'll reward yourself with a near-effortless means to effectively eliminate rust without damaging yourself, your parts, or the world around you.

This process presents two remotely potential hazards: electrical and explosion (well, your unsupervised toddler could drown in the electrolyte solution, but we're giving you the benefit of the doubt there). While the chances are slim that you'll generate enough hydrogen to pose any risk (you probably generate a greater amount of flammable gas after a night of chasing pickled eggs with beer), it goes without saying you should conduct this operation in a well-ventilated area.

While you'll probably keep your electrolyte bucket full for future projects (simply replenish it with water), theoretically there's nothing wrong or illegal about dumping it down the drain. Disposing of oil down a drain is not only illegal; it's bad practice that makes us car people easy targets for do-gooders.

If you must treat greasy parts, simply boil out the water from the solution and submit the sludge to an approved disposal site. While stainless anodes don't crumble away as readily as plain steel or iron ones do, they dissolve nonetheless.

When they do, they release the heavy metal alloying agents like chromium, manganese, and nickel that give stainless its rust -free properties. Hydrogen embrittlement isn't isolated to electrolytic processing either; pickling, or acid stripping, causes the same condition.

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While baking parts at a particular temperature for a calculated time can reverse this condition, its reliable application is a science governed by many variables, including metal alloys, the part's cross-section, and the severity of the condition. Even then, we'd want to see objective proof from a vendor before plating something as critical as a spindle or Pittman arm.

We can, however, use a crude form of this baking process to reduce or even eliminate hydrogen embrittlement from vulnerable yet non-critical components like mechanism springs. According to professionals in the plating industry, baking a part for at least three hours at temperatures between 375- to 400-degrees Fahrenheit eliminates most of the excessive hydrogen.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase we may earn a commission. I don’t know about you but my heart skips a beat when I come across reclaimed wood, rusty metal, and forged iron.

I have to tell ya, making metal rust in fast-forward was even more fun than I anticipated. I originally came across this post on how to make metal rust and planned to follow it to a tee, but then I became all impatient and excited and just did my own thing.

After I placed my horseshoe in the container I poured some white distilled vinegar on top. I didn’t measure but I poured just enough so that it covered the horseshoe and then I sorta swished it around on top.


At this point, you’ll want to add peroxide on top of your metal objects. You can mix it with vinegar and salt inside a spray bottle if you want.

I then sprinkled …err dumped… a bunch of salt on my horseshoe and the rusty color started to come out even more. Then I called Eric over because I was all excited to show him, but I wanted more bubbles and fizz, so I poured a bit more hydrogen peroxide on top.

After a few minutes, I swished the horseshoe around in the solution to sort of rinse off the salt and then patted it dry with a paper towel. You’ll see that it’s a bit rusty but don’t worry if it doesn’t look exactly the way you want, it actually rusts more than it dries.

It was getting dark outside, so I just let it sit overnight and the next day this is what my horseshoe looked like, next to metal that’s been rusting for years: I made a few more horseshoes prior to this one and let some of them sit for about an hour because I wasn’t noticing the color change right away.

If you don’t like how your metal looks after 10 minutes and air drying, you can always repeat the process and keep them in the solution for a longer period of time You’ll want to add a clear sealer to prevent the rusty patina from flaking off and staining anything they touch.

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After receiving a lot of comments and emails about this not working on certain objects I wanted to add that not all metals will rust. I believe it has to have iron in it in order to rust, and if it’s galvanized, stainless steel or some other type of metal that doesn’t corrode then this process won’t work.

I learned this the hard way by trying to rust some galvanized buckets I had on hand and read up about it here. If you watch the video at the top of this post you’ll see the difference in the spray vs. dunk method.

Basically, the spray method will allow more of the contrast of the original metal to show through and it is easier to work in layers and add more rust if you want. Although you’ll notice a few of my “dunked” horseshoes still have a decent amount of contrast.

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