Fun Facts about Cobalt

Cobalt (pronounced koh-bawlt), the 27th element in the periodic table, is “a silver-white metallic element with a faint pinkish tinge” and at room temperature is a solid with a close packed hexagonal structure. This transition metal has the following physical properties: an atomic weight of 58.93 grams, a density of 8.86 grams per cubic centimeter, a melting point of 1495 degrees Celsius, and a boiling point of 2927 degrees Celsius. Cobalt has only one naturally occurring stable isotope and is a usually obtained as a byproduct when nickel, silver, lead, copper, and iron are mined and refined. It can be found in cobaltite, glaucodot, linnaelite, and smaltite mineral ores.

But what does all this scientific jargon really mean? Here are some interesting facts as well as common applications of this element:

1. According to the World English Dictionary, Cobalt comes from the German word “Kobalt” which is derived from the Middle High German word “kobolt” meaning “goblin” because miners believed “that malicious goblins placed it in the silver ore.”

2. The Swedish chemist, George Brandt, discovered Cobalt in 1739 while he was trying to disprove the contemporary belief that the element Bismuth had the ability to color glass blue.

3. Alnico alloys (containing Aluminum, Cobalt, and Nickel) are used when making powerful permanent magnets.

4. Stellite alloys (containing Chromium, Cobalt, and Tungsten) are used in the production of high-speed, high-temperature cutting tools because of Cobalt's high melting point and strength under high temperatures.

5. Other alloys containing Cobalt are used in the production of gas turbines and jet engines.

6. Cobalt's radioactive isotope, Cobalt-60 (half-life of 5.27 years), is a source of gamma rays. It can be used in some forms of cancer treatment and as a medical tracer.

7. Compounds containing Cobalt have been used as dyes and coloring agents. The common names of some of the compounds are: Ceruleum, Cobalt blue, Cobalt green, Cobalt yellow, and new blue.

8. Cobalt is a part of the vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin) which is of nutritional importance. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, it is a naturally occurring water-soluble vitamin which is required for “proper red blood formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis.” Deficiency of this mineral in daily diet can lead to “megaloblastic anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss.”

9. Canada, Morocco, and Zaire are important sources of Cobalt. The U.S. Geological Survey reports the possibility of Cobalt-rich zones in the north central Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands and other nearby U.S. Territories.

10. Lithium ion, Nickel-Cadmium, and Nickel metal hydride batteries are made with significant amounts of Cobalt.

11. Cobalt usage in rechargable batteries increased from 22% in 2006 to 25% in 2007 which accounts for the fastest growing use of the metal.

12. Global Cobalt consumption in 1995 was 24,000 tonnes and in 2008 that number increased to 60,800 tonnes. That is a 7.4% increase in a span of 13 years and if demand continues it is projected that this number will grow to 72,500 tonnes in 2011.