What is Rust?

Rust is an iron oxide, usually red oxide formed by the redox reaction of iron and oxygen in the presence of water or air moisture. Several forms of rust are distinguishable both visually and by spectroscopy, and form under different circumstances. Rust consists of hydrated iron(III) oxides Fe2O3.nH2O and iron(III) oxide-hydroxide (FeO(OH), Fe(OH)3).

Given sufficient time, oxygen, and water, any iron mass will eventually convert entirely to rust and disintegrate. Surface rust is flaky and friable, and it provides no protection to the underlying iron, unlike the formation of patina on copper surfaces. Rusting is the common term for corrosion of iron and its alloys, such as steel. Many other metals undergo equivalent corrosion, but the resulting oxides are not commonly called rust.

Other forms of rust exist, like the result of reactions between iron and chloride in an environment deprived of oxygen – rebar used in underwater concrete pillars is an example – which generates green rust.

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