The Shropshire region has long had an association with Iron production: In 1709 Abraham Darby successfully smelted iron with coke made from coal. This was the first of many innovations in the Shropshire iron industry and helped to make Iron the essential material of the Industrial Revolution.
Smelting is a method of extracting a metal from its ore using heat and a chemical reducing agent. When an ore is mined, it is in the form of a rock, the valuable metal is bound up within and must be released, or extracted in order to be used.
Smelting involves more than just "melting the metal out of its ore". Most ores are a chemical compound of the metal with other elements, such as oxygen (as an oxide), sulfur (as a sulfide) or carbon and oxygen together (as a carbonate). To produce the metal, these compounds have to undergo a chemical reaction. Smelting therefore consists of using suitable reducing substances that will combine with those oxidizing elements to free the metal.
The first stage of extraction is to "roast" the ore in order to drive off any unwanted carbon or sulphur, leaving behind Iron oxide. In order to release the metallic iron, the iron oxide is then "smelted" in the high temperatures of a blast furnace. The reducing environment created pulls the final oxygen atoms from the raw metal, leaving behind the elemental metal, in this case, "Pig Iron".
Prior to Abraham Darby developing his method for producing pig iron in a furnace fuelled by coke, the furnace was fuelled with charcoal, a material that was not readily available and thus a limiting factor on the amounts of iron that could be produced.
Smelting iron with coke ultimately released the iron industry from the limitation imposed by the speed of growth of trees. Coke-smelted cast iron went into steam engines, bridges, and many of the inventions of the 19th century. Only with coke smelting could there be produced the great quantities of iron needed to meet the requirements of the Industrial Revolution.
In order to claim this earthcache, please email answers to the following questions, via the link in my profile;
1. What is the total weight of this steam hammer?
2. What is the height of each leg?
3. What temperature must Wrought Iron be at in order to shape it?
4. What is the melting point of Iron?
In addition, please post a photo of yourself or your GPSr in front of the hammer.
For further information about the region and its involvement in the Industrial Revolution, why not visit one of the local museums: http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/about_us
Congratulations to Shropshire Seekers for FTF!