What is pyrite used for?

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Pyrite is a mineral that is often mistaken by many miners as gold. It is usually found with a yellowish hue and has a metallic shine to it which is why some people think of it as gold.  Because of this reputation, this iron sulfide mineral is also referred to as ‘fool’s gold.’  As a mineral, pyrite can be found abundantly from any environment.  But most pyrite rocks have the typical metallic luster and crystal-like texture making them favorites for people who love to collect rocks.

Pyrite is largely mined because of its sulfur content and not so much for its iron content.  Based on chemical research, the iron content of pyrite is rendered unusable or insignificant because of the mineral’s sulfur content.  With sulfur present, the iron content in pyrite is considered brittle and not strong enough for practical use.

The sulfur in pyrite is used in making sulfuric acid which is quite an important ingredient in various chemical mixtures for many industries.  At present, though, sulfuric acid is made from other sources instead of pyrite.  Paper production is also one industry that makes use of pyrite.  Again for its sulfur content, sulfur dioxide is created, and this chemical mixture is used in the making of paper.

Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, pyrite was considered a popular mineral because of its use in firearms, particularly in the ignition process.  The wheelock part of firearms needed some pyrite to create the spark which is needed to fire them.  Moving forward several centuries later, pyrite also contributed in the making of mineral detectors for radio receivers.  Detectors made with pyrite were known to be very dependable and even comparable to modern diode-based detectors of today.

Pyrite is known to be an unstable mineral, though.  This simply means that when a rock of pyrite is exposed to air and/or water elements, it will start to decompose and produce sulfate and iron oxides.  With the presence of specific bacteria, the process of oxidation is even made faster. Because of this property, pyrites are often found in crystal or dust form.

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