Element of the Month July: Cobalt

Did you know that cobalt was the first metal to be discovered?

Cobalt (from Latin cobaltum – “kobold”) is a chemical element with the symbol Co and atomic number 27. The element was discovered and first depicted in 1735 by the Swedish chemist Georg Brandt.

As early as the 15th century, miners in the Erzgebirge used the term “kobold” for special ores that were not easy to melt. The name referred to underground elves who were blamed for the problems of mining at the time. Inspired by this, the element got its name cobalt.

Cobalt ores and cobalt compounds have been known for a long time. They were preferably used for coloring glass and ceramics. In the Middle Ages, they were often considered valuable silver and copper ores. However, they could hardly be processed. The arsenic content also produced bad odors when heated and they were then declared “bewitched”.

Cobalt is a relatively rare element with an abundance in the earth’s crust of about 0.003%. In elemental form, it is very rarely found in meteorites and in the Earth’s core. Cobalt is found in some minerals, albeit in small amounts.
Most cobalt is produced to make corrosion-resistant alloys, hard metals, cutting metals and alloys for permanent magnets. Thanks to the variety of colors, cobalt is still used in glass production.

Other products in which cobalt is used include:

  • lithium-ion batteries
  • artificial joints
  • engines and turbines
  • paints and varnishes
  • and much more.

By the way, cobalt is also a component of vitamin B12 (cobalamin). As a trace element, it is essential for humans to survive. A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to anemia in the long run.

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