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What happens to the metals thrown into the soil?

  1. May 24, 2017 #1
    I wonder about what will happen to the metals and alloys such as iron, lead, argent, gold, mercury, cambium, steel, nickel, bronze when thrown into the soil. Can bacteria decompose them such as organic components? They were already under the soil before men picked them out. This is a very hard case for me to understand.

    Source: Self-made

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 24, 2017 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Basically decomposition means "converting into simpler compounds" (often inorganic). The inorganic compounds in metals and alloys are already quite simple, so there is nothing to decompose. They will slowly get oxidized though (mostly by natural processes not involving any life forms) till they got the most stable (thermodynamically) form, For some that means conversion into insoluble salts or oxides, for some it means being converted into ionic form, for others (like gold) the most stable form is elemental.
  4. May 26, 2017 #3
    What does "insoluble salts" mean used above? Does it related to water solution? Can iron (Fe) be converted into these salts? Or it will turn into ionic forms?


    Thank you.
  5. May 26, 2017 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    Yes, insoluble in water. Some iron salts are soluble, but Fe in general gets quite fast oxidized to Fe(III) and precipitates as a hydroxide, which in turn turns into hydrated oxide (which is the main, red component of rust) and doesn't dissolve in water.
  6. May 26, 2017 #5
    Are the rust and its main part hydroxide advantagous for the soil and nature? Why does not iron become oxided when its in the ore before men picked it out?

    Thank you.
  7. May 26, 2017 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    Mostly inert.

    It already is oxidized, which is why most iron ores are reddish.
  8. May 27, 2017 #7
    But if iron ares are already oxidized how can men produce iron from them? And this implies that when the iron oxidized after being used, it can be recyclable. But oxidized iron would loss its oxidized parts. Reddish xxidized parts fall like how leaves fall in the autumn.

    Thank you.
  9. May 27, 2017 #8


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    Gold Member

    By smelting. That's what coke is added for - to bind the oxygen.

    That's what they're doing here:
    Last edited: May 27, 2017
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