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Iron is commonly found in the Earth's crust in the form of an ore, usually an iron oxide, such as magnetite or hematite.
Iron is extracted from iron ore by removing the oxygen through its combination with a preferred chemical partner such as carbon which is then lost to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
Steel was produced in bloomery furnaces for thousands of years, but its large-scale, industrial use only began after more efficient production methods were devised in the 17th century, with the production of blister steel and then crucible steel.
Varying the amount of carbon and many other alloying elements, as well as controlling their chemical and physical makeup in the final steel (either as solute elements, or as precipitated phases), slows the movement of those dislocations that make pure iron ductile, and thus controls and enhances its qualities.
Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon and other elements.
Because of its high tensile strength and low cost, it is a major component used in buildings, infrastructure, tools, ships, automobiles, machines, appliances, and weapons. Iron is able to take on two crystalline forms (allotropic forms), body centered cubic (BCC) and face centered cubic (FCC), depending on its temperature.
Unlike copper and tin, liquid or solid iron dissolves carbon quite readily.
All of these temperatures could be reached with ancient methods used since the Bronze Age.
Modern steel is generally identified by various grades defined by assorted standards organizations.