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Iron is a relatively abundant element in the universe, found in stars and planets in considerable quantity, with very stable nuclei. Planetary cores and crusts typically contain iron, as do some asteroids. (TOS: "The Alternative Factor", "The Squire of Gothos", "Metamorphosis", "Balance of Terror"; VOY: "Once Upon a Time")
Iron is a vital constituent of plant and animal life, and appears in the blood hemoglobin of some species, such as Humans, causing blood to be colored red when exposed to oxygen. (TNG: "The Dauphin"; ENT: "The Communicator") The other major type of hemoglobin that is not based on iron is one based on copper. (TOS: "Obsession") Unique to the humanoid Acamarians, however, is hemoglobin that is a rare iron-copper composite. (TNG: "The Vengeance Factor")
When the metallic form of iron is exposed to oxygen, it turns into ferric oxide (FeO2), a process and a resultant substance known generally as "rust". (VOY: "The 37's") An iron oxide layer also existed beneath the surface of Mars. (VOY: "One Small Step")
Iron can be used for many practical, ceremonial, and decorative purposes. For example:
- The persona of Kamin, temporarily assumed by Jean-Luc Picard in 2368, was a respected iron weaver in his community. (TNG: "The Inner Light")
- Deputy Führer Melakon presented a medal of honor - the Iron Cross, second class - to Daras in 2268. (TOS: "Patterns of Force")
- A torture device made of iron in the general shape of a person and designed to impale a Human placed inside it on iron spikes was called an "iron maiden". (TOS: "Catspaw").
- Iron was used extensively in buildings ("ten times what you'd expect to see") by a planet suffering from frequent earthquakes due to interference from the USS Voyager. (VOY: "Blink of an Eye")
- An iron device for attaching and removing bolts securing tires to cars was called a "tire iron". It was sometimes brandished as a weapon because of its weight and length. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
- Early firearms were made partially of iron, and sometimes were referred to as "shooting irons" during 19th century Earth in an era known as the Ancient West. (TNG: "A Fistful of Datas")
- Anvils were traditionally made of iron on Earth. While not their intended purpose, their heavy iron mass could be used to provide a low-intensity magnetic-field core as the basis for a subspace phase discriminator. (TNG: "Time's Arrow")
- An iron filing was used by Picard in 1893 to send a simple message to Data in 2369. (TNG: "Time's Arrow, Part II")
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