Hematite Iron Oxide
Hematite is a naturally occurring iron oxide with the chemical formula Fe2O3. It is mined from many deposits worldwide and although the vast majority is used to make iron and steel, the many special properties of hematite make it suitable for other applications, including as a filler for plastics and coatings. It shares several attractive features with magnetite, another iron oxide, but hematite filler may well prove to be a more cost-effective option, especially in certain parts of the world.
- Appearance: Grey, shiny, metallic
- Density: High, 5.2 gcm-3
- Thermal conductivity: Very good 12.5 Wcm-1K-1
- Volumetric specific heat capacity: High 3.25 kJL-1K-1
- Electrical conductivity: Semi-conductive (ρ 0.1-300 Ωm)
- Radiation blocking: Very good (neutrons and x-rays)
Hematite filler can be used to add mass in various plastic parts made from e.g. polypropylene, polyamides (nylons) and polyethylene. High weight can be useful to impart a high quality feeling to a material or for sound damping. Loadings of 80 weight% easily achievable giving composite densities of around 3.0 gcm-3. As we shall see, there are many areas where hematite can add value.
Hematite can be used as pigment where it can impart an attractive grey metallic sparkle. Coarser grades with angular facets are very effective. Specularite, a platy form of hematite, gives especially attractive effects.
As a tracer
Plastics can be difficult to detect. Hematite has both magnetic and electrical properties, plus, its has very high density making it x-ray opaque. Thus, hematite filler, makes plastics detectable. Detectable plastics are especially sought after in medical applications, for plastics used in food processing and for anti-counterfeiting.
It has been shown that hematite is just as effective as magnetite for radiation blocking concrete. The high density of the hematite enables excellent blocking performance and the high strength of the hematite provides good mechanical properties for the concrete.
For microwave or induction heatability
Plastics are microwave transparent and do not heat by induction because they are electrical insulators without any magnetic properties. Hematite is added to polymers to allow them to be heated either by microwaves or using induction. Hematite heats up very quickly in a microwave oven, approximately 200°C per minute in a standard domestic oven.
There are applications requiring heat transfer and hematite has high heat conductivity making it an attractive, low cost, specialty filler to meet such requirements. Hematite has a thermal conductivity of 12.5 Wcm-1K-1, which is exceptionally high, more than double the conductivity of magnetite and 3-4 times higher than for common fillers like barium sulfate and calcium carbonate (calcite).
Hematite is attracted to a magnet, although not as strongly as magnetite is. Therefore, hematite can be used to make plastics attracted to a magnet, either for separation purposes or for magnetic closures.
Hematite is a multi-functional filler for plastics. Although not yet widely known, it has high potential. This article and the information below serve, hopefully, to increase awareness of the specialty filler and what it can do. Phantom Plastics has assembled a large amount of information on hematite to help customers develop new applications. High purity hematite filler is now available from Arctic Minerals under the DenzFlex™ tradename.