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Journal of Minerals & Materials Characterization & Engineering, Vol. 2, No.1, pp65-70, 2003
http://www.jmmce.org, printed in the USA. All rights reserved
Quantitative Determination of Metallic Iron Content in Steel-Making Slag
Zhiyong Xu, Jim Hwang, Robert Greenlund, Xiaodi Huang,
Jinjing Luo, and Steve Anschuetz
Institute of Materials Processing
Michigan Technological University
1400 Townsend Drive
Houghton, MI 49931
A quantitative analytical method for metallic iron was developed
for wastes from iron and steel mills. These wastes consist of slags, dusts
and sludges, mill scales, spent pickle liquor, and other iron-bearing
materials. Accurate determination of metallic iron in these wastes will
provide the vital information for the recycling or reuse of these wastes.
The new procedure for the determination of metallic iron (Fe
developed and various factors that could affect the test result were
determined. Pure metallic iron powders were mixed with pure iron oxides
with various ratios and then were tested using this method. Testing results
had excellent agreement with actual concentration. Samples from several
sites have been tested.
Keywords: metallic iron, analysis, steel slag, recycling.
The steel industry in the United States generates large tons of by-products each
year. The majority of these by-products are present in various forms of slag, sludge, and
dusts. The recycling of these by-products has made significant progress in the past years.
These by-products provide significant iron units and other value when recycled and
properly reused . However, a large amount of these by-products have been stockpiled
at steel mills or have been discarded in landfills at a high cost.
Michigan Technological University (MTU), with steel industry partners, has
launched a project to fully utilize steel mill by-products to generate revenues, conserve
energy, and alleviate environmental problems caused by these by-products. One of goals
of this project is to increase the efficiency of iron unit recovery from by-products. To
recover the iron units efficiently, fine grinding is necessary for liberation. Traditionally,
this approach has been avoided because conventional separation techniques using
magnetic separation is not an effective tool for processing fine dry materials. In addition,
the non-magnetic, non-iron bearing slag fines do not have an existing market demand and
the disposal of the fines can be a problem. To overcome these obstacles, a process
66 Z. Xu, J. Hwang, R. Greenlund, X. Huang, J. Luo, and S. Anschuets Vol. 2, No. 1
technology utilizing air classification has been developed at the Institute of Materials
Processing, MTU, which can effectively separate the metallics and iron oxides at particle
sizes that are finer than that of convectional dry magnetic separation technology. The
technology can create higher separation efficiency, thus creating significant gains in iron
Because of increased selectivity expected from the iron recovery process, high
grade products on the order of 90% Fe will be generated, briquetted, and fed to BOF
(basic oxygen furnace) or EAF (electric arc furnace) operations. Also lower grade
products similar to iron ore pellet quality (60% Fe) will be generated. This product will
be pelletized or briquetted for BF (blast furnace) feed. Both products offer a quick iron
return to the mill.
The accurate determination of metallic iron content and total iron content is vital
before and after processing of the received by-products. This is critical for the mass
balance, results interpretation, and quality control. There are several well-defined
methods for the determination of the total iron content in iron ores and related materials.
These methods include silver reduction-dichromate titration (ASTM E 1081-95a) ,
hydrogen sulfide reduction and dichromate titration (ASTM E 246-95) , and
dichromate titrimetry (ASTM E 1028-98) . However, no ASTM standard test method
of metallic iron content for iron or steel slags and related materials has been defined.
When the slag sample is sent to the different labs, the different and even contradicted
results are given. It is very difficult to make a decision how to deal with the steel-making
by-products without an accurate metallic iron content measurement.
There are a few approaches to test the metallic iron content. The Kentucky
transportation cabinet issues a method to cover the determination of particles (by mass)
containing iron in blast furnace slag . This method applies a magnet to collect the
metallic iron particles. Obviously, this method only provides the approximate result, due
to the metallic particles often being imbedded in non-metallic particles for the iron-
making or steel-making slags. Another method uses mercuric chloride to extract metallic
iron from slag . However, a protective film is formed on the surface of metallic iron to
prevent further dissolution. This method usually gives lower metallic iron value than the
The basis of the metallic iron determination method in this study is the following
Fe + CuSO
Solid metallic iron replaces the Cu
in the solution and becomes Fe
metallic iron content can be determined by determining the Fe
content in the solution.
The objective of this study is to develop an accurate method to determine the
metallic iron content in the steel-making by-products, whereby this method can also be
Vol. 2, No. 1 Quantitative Determination of Metallic Iron Content 67
used for the determination of metallic iron content for direct reduced iron and related
Sample Preparation for analytical samples
• The test sample shall be repetitively pulverized or ground and screened at 65 mesh to
the point where confidence exists that the + 65 fraction is 100% metallic in nature.
The -65 mesh portion will be tested in the following procedure.
Metallic Iron Determination Procedures
• Weigh 0.5 gram sample and put it into a beaker
• Put 50 ml 0.5M CuSO
• Put 50 ml distilled water into beaker
• Put beaker on hot plate and let boil for 45-60 minutes (covered with watch glass), stir
with glass bar in order to prevent powder sample from agglomerating, and add
distilled water as necessary to keep solution a constant level in the beaker.
• Filter into 250 ml flask right after boiling, dilute the solution to 200 ml or so with
distilled water, and then add HCl to adjust the pH value of the solution to equal or
less than 1.
• Add the distilled water to 250 ml
• Determine the metallic iron content by ICP.
Five synthetic samples, mixing the pure metallic iron powder and iron oxide
powder (a mixture of FeO and Fe
), were tested to verify the test method. Six slag
samples from the different sites have also been tested.
Results and Discussion
Table 1. Test results for five synthetic samples
Test Metallic Iron
FeO and Fe
1 100% 0 99.09% 0.91%
2 80% 20% 80.04% 0.04%
3 40% 60% 40.94% 0.94%
4 20% 80% 20.51% 0.51%
5 0 100 0.11% 0.11%
The results given in Table 1 demonstrate the overall error for metallic iron
analyses is less than 1%.
68 Z. Xu, J. Hwang, R. Greenlund, X. Huang, J. Luo, and S. Anschuets Vol. 2, No. 1
Table 2. Iron Analyses for six Slag Samples from Different Sites
Total Iron and Metallic Iron Concentrations of Slag Samples ( wt. % )
Samples Slag 1 Slag 2 Slag 3 Slag 4 Slag 5 Slag 6
Total Fe 55.47% 28.03 41.88 17.27 23.89 22.51
Metallic Fe 28.09 4.84 37.88 3.03 3.19 5.63
The results given in Table 2 indicate different steel slags have different iron units
and different metallic iron contents. Accurate measurement of metallic iron content
provides a key parameter for reusing and recycling of the steel slag.
The method to analyze the metallic iron in this project is relatively easy.
However, there are several factors to affect accurate test results. The main factors include
sample preparation, sample handling, and pH values.
First of all, the slag samples have to be ground to pass 65-mesh (-65 mesh) and to
liberate the metallic iron out. When the slag particle is too big, the metallic iron may still
be covered by the non-metal materials and cannot have contact with Cu
, which will
cause analytical error. It is difficult to grind the metallic iron part of the slag, and some
part of metallic irons cannot pass 65-mesh (+65 mesh). Combining the test results of two
parts (-65-mesh and + 65-mesh) on a weighted percentage basis will give the total
metallic iron for the slag sample.
Continuous stirring of the testing solution is also very important for obtaining
accurate results, because no stirring will lead the Cu precipitates to form a Cu thin film
around the metallic iron particles and prevent Cu
from further attacking the inside of
the metallic iron particle.
The pH value of the testing solution is another key factor for the metallic iron
analysis. When boiling the slag sample in 0.5 M CuSO
solution, the pH value should be
around 7. If the CuSO
solution pH value is too high, the iron oxide will partially dissolve
into the solution, which will interfere with the metallic iron concentration and exaggerate
the metallic iron content in the slag.
After boiling the slag sample, the solution should be filtered immediately. When
the solution temperature begins to decrease, the Fe
will partially precipitate to
, especially for the high metallic iron content slag. The pH
value of the filtrate should be adjusted to 1 in order to avoid the precipitation of Fe(OH)
. When the concentration of iron in the filtrate is high, a brown precipitate is
observed from the solution right after filtering if no adjusting of the pH value takes place.
The pH value and temperature determine the solubility of Fe(OH)
One factor that needs to be considered is the oxidation of Fe
in water. If
oxygen is present, some of the Fe(II) oxidizes to Fe(III).
Vol. 2, No. 1 Quantitative Determination of Metallic Iron Content 69
The time for complete oxidation of Fe
is a matter of minutes in an aerated
solution when pH is above 7.0. The rate of oxidation of Fe
in water is given by
Singer and Stumm.
The following are the solubility equilibriums of Fe(OH)
= 4.87 x 10
= 2.79 x 10
is the solubility product constant .
Because the K
is much smaller than that of Fe(OH)
, it is only
necessary to find the maximum pH value of the filtrate to prevent Fe(OH)
a precipitate. Since K
is so small, the [OH
] from the Fe(OH)
dissolution is negligible
compared to the [OH
] from the dissociation of water.
= 2.79 x 10
] = 2.79 x 10
In order to prevent precipitate generation for different Fe
required maximum pH values are given in Table 3. For example, when pH = 2, the
concentration is 156 ppm:
] = (2.79 x 10
M) (55.845 g/mol) = 0.156 g/L = 1.56 x 10
Table 3. The maximum pH values needed for the different Fe
pH value [OH
] (M) [Fe
1 1 x 10
2.79 1.56 x 10
2 1 x 10
2.79 x 10
1.56 x 10
3 1 x 10
2.79 x 10
1.56 x 10
4 1 x 10
2.79 x 10
1.56 x 10
5 1 x 10
2.79 x 10
1.56 x 10
6 1 x 10
2.79 x 10
1.56 x 10
7 1 x 10
2.79 x 10
1.56 x 10
Usually, the concentration of 0.5 gram pure metallic iron (100% iron) in the 250
ml solution is 2000 ppm. So, the pH value for the test solution should be less than 2.
70 Z. Xu, J. Hwang, R. Greenlund, X. Huang, J. Luo, and S. Anschuets Vol. 2, No. 1
The authors gratefully acknowledge the Department of Energy for providing
financial support to the research program, Recycling & Reuse of Steel Mill By-products,
Phase I: Verification of Iron Contents, at Michigan Technology University.
1. Steel Industry Technology Roadmap, December, (2001).
2. ASTM, Standard Test Method for Determination of Total Iron in Iron Ores and
Related Materials by Silver Reduction-Dichromate Titration, ASTM E 1081-95a,
Annual Book of ASTM Standards, Vol. 03.06, 311-314 (2000).
3. ASTM, Standard Test Method for Iron in Iron Ores and Related Materials by
Hydrogen Sulfide Reduction and Dichromate Titration, ASTM E 246-95, Annual
Book of ASTM Standards, Vol. 03.05, 249-252 (2000).
4. ASTM, Standard Test Method for Total Iron in Iron Ores and Related Materials
by Dichromate Titrimetry, ASTM E 1028-98, Annual Book of ASTM Standards,
Vol. 03.06, 292-295 (2000).
5. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, KM 64-618-01 Metallic iron content in slag,
6. J. Aubry and P. Perrot, Chim. Anal., 47, No. 4, 177-179 (1965).
7. P. C. Singer and W. Stumm, Acid mine drainage—the rate limiting step, Science,
v. 167, 1121-1123 (1970).
8. David R. Lide (Editor-in-Chief), CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 80