Iron ore pellets are tiny spheres or pellets that are constructed by combining iron ore with other products in order to create materials that are easy to transport. The range of additional ingredients used in the pellets will vary, although it is not unusual for each pellet to contain some type of clay or limestone, as well as elements such as dolostone and olivine as part of the mix. Bentonite is also sometimes added as a binding agent for pellets of iron ore, allowing the product to remain stable during transport and storage.
As the name implies, iron ore pellets are small pellets that bear some resemblance to small pieces of rock. The pellets may be somewhat round or formulated into an elongated shape that resembles a very small piece of tubing. Creation of the pellets involves a process that is known as pelletizing, and calls for combining the iron ore with other ingredients in machinery that is referred to as pelletizers. The machines aid in shaping the raw material into small pieces that are more or less rounded. From there, the pieces are placed into a kiln and fired until they are firm and solid.
One of the more common uses for iron ore pellets has to do with the creation of iron-based products using a blast furnace. Owing to the shape of the pellets, they can be placed into the furnace and allow an equitable amount of hot air to pass in and around each of the spheres. The process is considered more efficient than making use of iron ore powder, which does not allow the hot air to freely circulate and warm the ore to a uniform temperature. For this reason, the pellets are often preferable to fine iron ore products, since the ability to achieve that balance in temperature is somewhat limited with the fine ore products.
The use of iron ore pellets has increased over time. Formerly, iron ore was worked into lumps that were roughly the size of a standard lump of coal. Since the pellets can be introduced into a blasting process and achieve the desired result in a more efficient manner, it is not unusual for iron ore in this form to be used in a wide number of applications, including the creation of what is known as sponge iron. Along with the ease of use, this approach makes it easier to extract impurities from the iron ore, resulting in a higher quality of iron product for use in the creation of a wide range of products.