What is the Difference Between Elemental Iron and Ferrous Sulfate

The main difference between elemental ion and ferrous sulfate is that elemental iron is the pure form of iron, while ferrous sulfate is a compound containing iron, oxygen, and sulfur.

Elemental iron and ferrous sulfate are two forms of iron that play crucial roles in various biological processes.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Elemental Iron  
      – Definition, Features, Role
2. What is Ferrous Sulfate
      – Definition, Features, Role
3. Similarities Between Elemental Iron and Ferrous Sulfate
      – Outline of Common Features
4. Difference Between Elemental Iron and Ferrous Sulfate
      – Comparison of Key Differences
5. FAQ: Elemental Iron and Ferrous Sulfate
      – Frequently Asked Questions

Key Terms

Elemental Iron, Ferrous Sulfate, FeSO4, Iron(II) Sulfate, Green Vitriol

Difference Between Elemental Iron and Ferrous Sulfate - Comparison Summary

What is Elemental Iron

Elemental iron is a metal that plays a fundamental role in various aspects of human life and the natural world. As one of the most abundant elements on Earth, iron serves as a building block for many essential structures and processes. Its atomic number is 26, and it belongs to the transition metal group.

In its pure form, elemental iron has a distinct silvery-gray appearance and is relatively soft. However, when combined with other elements to form alloys such as steel, iron gains remarkable strength and durability. Steel, a combination of iron and carbon, has been a pivotal material in construction, manufacturing, and infrastructure for centuries.

Beyond its importance in the industrial sector, iron is indispensable in biological systems. Hemoglobin, a protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the blood, contains iron at its core. This heme group allows hemoglobin to bind with oxygen in the lungs and release it to cells throughout the body, sustaining aerobic respiration. This vital role in oxygen transport underscores iron’s significance in maintaining human health.

Compare Elemental Iron and Ferrous Sulfate

The Earth’s core is predominantly composed of iron, contributing to the planet’s magnetic field. This magnetic field shields the Earth from harmful solar radiation and plays a crucial role in shaping our climate and protecting the atmosphere.

Despite its abundance, iron is not always readily accessible in its elemental form. Most iron exists as minerals in the Earth’s crust, such as hematite and magnetite. Extracting iron from these ores involves complex processes, including smelting and refining, to obtain the pure metal.

Iron’s versatility extends to various applications, from construction materials to tools and machinery. Its magnetic properties make it invaluable in the production of magnets and electronic devices. Additionally, iron-based catalysts are widely used in chemical reactions and industrial processes.

What is Ferrous Sulfate

Ferrous sulfate, commonly known as iron(II) sulfate or green vitriol, is a chemical compound with the formula FeSO4. It plays a crucial role in various industrial, agricultural, and medical applications, owing to its diverse chemical properties.

In its hydrated form, ferrous sulfate exists as FeSO4·7H2O, known as heptahydrate or green vitriol. This blue-green crystalline solid readily dissolves in water, forming a pale green solution. The compound undergoes dehydration upon heating, transforming into the anhydrous form. Its molecular structure consists of an iron(II) cation bonded to four oxygen atoms in a tetrahedral arrangement, forming a complex with a sulfate anion.

Elemental Iron vs Ferrous Sulfate

Ferrous sulfate exhibits both oxidizing and reducing properties, making it a versatile compound. In aqueous solutions, it undergoes oxidation, converting to ferric sulfate, particularly in the presence of air. This reactivity makes it a valuable reducing agent in various chemical processes, including water treatment and the synthesis of other iron compounds.

In agriculture, ferrous sulfate is utilized as a fertilizer to address iron deficiencies in soil, promoting plant growth. Its application enhances chlorophyll synthesis, aiding in photosynthesis. Additionally, it serves as a reducing agent in environmental remediation, particularly in the removal of hydrogen sulfide from industrial gas streams.

On the medical front, ferrous sulfate is a common iron supplement prescribed to individuals with iron-deficiency anemia. The body readily absorbs the iron, supporting the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. However, excessive intake may lead to toxicity, emphasizing the importance of controlled usage.

Similarities Between Elemental Iron and Ferrous Sulfate

  • Elemental iron and ferrous sulfate both contain iron in different forms.

Difference Between Elemental Iron and Ferrous Sulfate


Elemental iron is pure iron, while ferrous sulfate is a compound containing iron, sulfur, and oxygen.


Elemental iron is often found in a metallic form, such as iron filings or a solid piece of iron. Ferrous sulfate, on the other hand, is commonly available as a salt, usually in the form of a crystalline powder or tablets.


Elemental iron may have lower bioavailability, meaning it may be absorbed less efficiently by the body compared to ferrous sulfate, which is a more readily absorbed form of iron commonly used as a dietary supplement to address iron deficiency.

FAQ: Elemental Iron and Ferrous Sulfate

Is ferrous sulfate acidic?

Yes, ferrous sulfate is acidic as it tends to form ferrous hydroxide with water-releasing protons.

Is ferrous sulfate a covalent compound?

No. A covalent compound is an ionic compound.

Which fruit is rich in iron?

Avocado, strawberries, watermelon, raisins, dates, figs, prunes, dried apricots, and dried peaches are iron-rich fruits.


The main difference between elemental ion and ferrous sulfate is that elemental iron is the pure form of iron, while ferrous sulfate is a compound containing iron, oxygen, and sulfur.


1. “Iron.” Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation.
2. “Ferrous Sulfate.” Health Line.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Heme b” By Yikrazuul – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Fe(H2O)6SO4” By Smokefoot – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasini A

Hasini is a graduate of Applied Science with a strong background in forestry, environmental science, chemistry, and management science. She is an amateur photographer with a keen interest in exploring the wonders of nature and science.

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