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The chemistry of group 8 is dominated by iron, whose high abundance in Earth’s crust is due to the extremely high stability of its nucleus. Ruthenium and osmium, on the other hand, are extremely rare elements, with terrestrial abundances of only about 0.1 ppb and 5 ppb, respectively, and they were not discovered until the 19th century. Because of the high melting point of iron (1538°C), early humans could not use it for tools or weapons. The advanced techniques needed to work iron were first developed by the Hittite civilization in Asia Minor sometime before 2000 BC, and they remained a closely guarded secret that gave the Hittites military supremacy for almost a millennium. With the collapse of the Hittite civilization around 1200 BC, the technology became widely distributed, however, leading to the Iron Age.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1246120