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Iron oxide pigment

Iron oxides are chemical compounds composed of iron and oxygen. Altogether, there are sixteen known iron oxides and oxyhydroxides.[1]






A prehistorical painting (Lascaux) created with locally-available pigments: red and yellow ochers[1]

The most industrially-important iron ores are chemically iron oxides.

Some iron oxides are widely used in ceramic applications, particularly in glazing. Many metal oxides provide the colors in glazes after being fired at high temperatures.

Iron oxides yield pigments (see iron oxide pigments). Natural iron oxides pigments are called ochres. Many classic paint colors, such as raw and burnt siennas and umbers, are iron-oxide pigments. These pigments have been used in art since the earliest prehistoric art known, the cave paintings at Lascaux and nearby sites. Iron (III) oxide is typically used.

Iron pigments are also widely used in the cosmetic field. They are considered to be nontoxic, moisture resistant, and nonbleeding. Iron oxides graded safe for cosmetic use are produced synthetically in order to avoid the inclusion of ferrous or ferric oxides, and impurities normally found in naturally occurring iron oxides. Typically, the iron(II) oxide pigment is black, while the iron(III) oxide is red or rust-colored. (Iron compounds other than oxides can have other colors.)

Black oxide converts ferrous materials into magnetite for corrosion resistance purposes. A grade of hematite called MIO (micaceous iron oxide) is used as anti-corrosion paint (many bridges, Eiffel tower).

Iron oxide is used in magnetic recording, recording sound, pictures, video and computer data on plastic tape or floppy disks.

Iron oxides are used as contrast agent in Magnetic Resonance Imaging, to shorten proton relaxation times, (T1, T2 and T2*). The superparamagnetic contrast agents are composed of a water insoluble crystalline magnetic core, usually magnetite (Fe3O4) or maghemite (γ-Fe2O3). The mean core diameter ranges from 4 to 10 nm. This crystalline core is often surrounded by a layer of dextran or starch derivatives. The total size of the particle is expressed as the mean hydrated particle diameter. USPIO, Ultrasmall Superparamagnetic Iron Oxide nanoparticles, which usually have single crystal cores, have a mean hydrated particle diameter less than 50 nm.

They may also be used in electrochromic paints.

Combined with aluminium powder, iron oxide forms thermite, which is used in demolition and bomb building.

The iron oxide cycle (Fe3O4/FeO) is a two-step thermochemical process used for hydrogen production.


  • Iron(III) oxide (Fe2O3) or ferric oxide is also known as hematite (alpha form) or maghemite (gamma form) in its mineral form. As an industrial chemical it is commonly called rouge. Purified, it is used as a coating in magnetic audio and computer media. In a dry or alkaline environment, it can cause passivation and inhibit rust, yet it is also a major component of rust and dried blood.
  • Iron(II,III) oxide (Fe3O4) or ferrous ferric oxide is also known as magnetite or lodestone in its mineral form, a major iron ore. Magnetite forms readily when iron oxidizes underwater, and so is often found inside tanks or below the waterline of ships.


  1. ^ a b Cornell, RM; Schwertmann, U (2003). The iron oxides: structure, properties, reactions, occurrences and uses. Wiley VCH. ISBN 3-527-30274-3.  

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Simple English

Iron oxides are chemical compounds. There are sixteen known iron oxides. Iron oxides are used in pigments. It is used in both man-made and natural pigments.


Venetian red (haematite), Magnetite (Fe304), or a mixture of oxides make black or purple pigments. The umber’s, sienna’s and ochre’s are oxides or hydrated oxides of a yellow to chestnut colour.

Various iron oxides

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