Chem Explorers

Cobalt: The Versatile Metal Shaping Our Technology Art and Health

Cobalt is a transition metal that has been known for centuries and enjoys numerous industrial and medical applications. This article will provide an overview of the properties and characteristics of cobalt, as well as how it is produced and used.

Properties and Characteristics

Cobalt is a lustrous, silver-grey metal that is magnetic at room temperature. Its atomic number is 27, and it has a melting point of approximately 1,495 degrees Celsius.

Cobalt has numerous isotopes, with the most stable being cobalt-59. Its atomic mass is 58.9, and it is located in the 9th group of the periodic table.

One of the most notable characteristics of cobalt is its magnetic properties. It is the most magnetized common metal and is used to create strong magnets.

This trait makes it ideal for use in electric motors, generators, and other electrical devices. Cobalt is also a hard metal with high ductility and resistance to wear and tear.

It has a high melting point and is capable of withstanding extremely high temperatures. Its density is also relatively high, making it useful in a range of high-stress applications.

Occurrence and History

Cobalt occurs naturally in the earth’s crust and can be found in various minerals, including cobaltite, erythrite, and skutterudite. It also occurs in manganese nodules that are found on the ocean floor.

Cobalt was first discovered in the late 17th century by Georg Brandt, a Swedish chemist. He identified it in a blue ore sample and named it after the German word “kobold,” meaning goblin or evil spirit.

The discovery of cobalt, however, was mired in controversy since Brandt was accused of stealing the idea from a colleague who had presented similar findings earlier.

Properties of Cobalt

Physical Properties

Cobalt has a unique color, being silver-grey and possessing a slightly blue hue. It is a hard metal that is not easily bent or broken, and it has a high melting point of approximately 1,495 degrees Celsius.

Its density is relatively high, at 8.9 g/cm. Cobalt also has excellent electrical conductivity and is used in the production of batteries and other electrical devices.

Chemical Properties

Cobalt has an oxidation state of +2, +3, or +4. The most common oxidation state is +2, where it loses two electrons to form a stable ion.

Cobalt has numerous isotopes, but the most stable ones are cobalt-59 and cobalt-60. The Lewis dot structure of cobalt involves two valence electrons in the 3d orbital, while the atomic data of cobalt shows that it has an atomic radius of 135 pm and an electronegativity of 1.88.

Uses of Cobalt

Cobalt enjoys a wide range of industrial and medical applications. It is used in the manufacture of high-strength alloys and magnets for electric motors, generators, turbines, and other machines.

Cobalt is also used to create heat-resistant and wear-resistant parts in vehicles and aircraft. Cobalt is useful in the medical industry, being employed in the production of radiography equipment, radioactive tracers, and radiation therapy.

It is also used in the creation of implantable devices, such as artificial hearts and pacemakers. Additionally, cobalt-containing compounds are used as pigments in ceramics, glass, and paint.

Cobalt blue is a popular color used in art and home decor.


Cobalt is an essential metal with numerous industrial and medical applications. Its unique magnetic and physical characteristics make it a highly valuable material in a wide range of products.

Understanding the properties and uses of cobalt can help us appreciate this remarkable metal and its contributions to modern technology and medicine.

Uses of Cobalt

Cobalt is one of the world’s most commonly used transition metals, with diverse industrial and consumer applications. It is used in a range of products and processes that impact our daily lives.

This section outlines some of the industrial and consumer applications of cobalt.

Industrial Applications

Gas Turbine Generators: Cobalt is a component of superalloys used in gas turbine generators. The high-strength properties of these alloys make them ideal for these applications, where they must withstand extreme heat, pressure, and vibration.

Electroplating: Cobalt is used in electroplating to create a hard, durable finish on metal surfaces. It is commonly employed in automotive parts, jewelry, and electronic devices.

Super-Alloys: Cobalt is a vital element in the production of super-alloys that are used in various industrial applications. These alloys exhibit exceptional strength, resistance to corrosion, and high-temperature stability, making them ideal for use in engines, turbines, and other critical applications.

Consumer Applications

Glass, Porcelain, and Pottery: Cobalt oxide is an essential ingredient in the production of blue and green glass, porcelain, and pottery. The vibrant blue and green colors of these products are achieved by adding cobalt oxide to the raw materials, which melts and fuses together when the objects undergo high temperatures in the kiln.

Batteries: Cobalt is a vital component in rechargeable batteries, such as those used in mobile devices and electric vehicles. The high-energy density and long life span of these batteries are attributed to the presence of cobalt in their structures.

Paint and Pigments: Cobalt-containing pigments, such as cobalt blue and cobalt green, are commonly used in paint production. These pigments are often found in oil paints and watercolors, and are known for their vivid coloring and durability.

Food Irradiation: Cobalt-60 is an isotope used in food irradiation to sterilize and increase the shelf life of food products. The energy emitted by cobalt-60 helps to eliminate bacteria, pests, and other pathogens that can cause food spoilage and disease.

Cancer Treatment: Cobalt-60 is also used in radiation therapy for cancer treatment. The gamma rays emitted by cobalt-60 are used to target and destroy cancer cells while sparing healthy cells.

The high-energy radiation from cobalt-60 can be focused precisely on the tumor, leading to better treatment outcomes.

Health Effects of Cobalt

Toxicity and Carcinogenicity

Cobalt can have toxic effects on human health if absorbed in high doses. Individuals who work in cobalt mines or in industries that use cobalt, like battery manufacturing, electroplating, and welding, are at higher risk of cobalt poisoning.

Typical symptoms of cobalt poisoning include nausea, vomiting, skin rash, and respiratory issues. Animal studies have indicated that cobalt may have carcinogenic properties, although the evidence on cancer-causing potential in humans is inconclusive.

Some studies suggest that people exposed to high levels of cobalt in their workplaces, such as hard metal factories or cobalt mines, may be at a greater risk of developing cancer.

Essential Component and Mineral Deficiency Prevention

Cobalt is an essential component for the function of vitamin B12, which is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system and the production of red blood cells in humans. Adults require around 2-3 micrograms of cobalt every day, which is easily obtained through a healthy diet or supplements.

Without enough cobalt, humans can develop a vitamin B12 deficiency, leading to anemia and neurological damage. Cobalt is also an essential mineral for animal health, especially in ruminants like cows.

Cobalt-containing enzymes are required for the synthesis of vitamin B12 in ruminants’ stomachs. A deficiency of cobalt in cows can lead to metabolic disorders and reduced growth or milk production.


Cobalt is a versatile metal with numerous industrial and consumer applications. As with any other metal or chemical, it can have adverse health effects if exposure is too high.

However, small doses of cobalt are essential to human and animal health, making it an essential mineral that benefits many aspects of our lives.

Interesting Facts

Cobalt is a fascinating metal with a rich history, unique properties, and cultural significance. In this section, we explore some of the most intriguing aspects of cobalt.

Symbolism and Tradition

Cobalt’s name is derived from the German word “kobold,” which means goblin or evil spirit. The connection between cobalt and mythology can be traced back to the mines of Saxony, where miners attributed mysterious accidents and misfortunes to the mischievous actions of cobalt spirits.

In Chinese tradition, cobalt is a symbol of durability and strength, and it has been used in porcelain glazing for centuries to create intricate designs. Cobalt’s use in pottery glazes is also found in traditional Islamic-style tiles that are decorated with rich blue cobalt oxide patterns and designs.

These beautiful cobalt blue patterns have been used for centuries, and the tradition has survived to this day in many parts of the world.

Unique Properties and Discoveries

Cobalt is known for its unique magnetic properties. It is the most magnetized common metal known to date, and it is attracted to magnets at room temperature.

Cobalt also has the unusual property of spin-changing, which causes a shift in the material’s magnetic behavior when exposed to certain conditions. This property has caused scientists to experiment with cobalt in high-tech magnetic data storage.

Another interesting property of cobalt is its relationship with the Curie point. The Curie point refers to the temperature at which cobalt loses its magnetic properties.

This temperature is unique to each magnetic material. Cobalt’s Curie point is around 1,115 degrees Celsius, making it ideal for high-temperature applications where magnetic properties are critical.


Cobalt is a rare metal that is found in small quantities in the earth’s crust, resulting in a relatively high market value. The price of cobalt can fluctuate significantly due to supply and demand, geopolitical factors, and the use of cobalt in batteries.

In 2018, the price of cobalt surged due to an increase in demand for rechargeable batteries, which are used in electronic devices and electric vehicles. The cost of cobalt also depends on its form.

Cobalt metal is more expensive than cobalt oxide, which is used in glass and ceramics production. Currently, the price of cobalt is around $50,000 per tonne, which is relatively high compared to other metals.


Cobalt is a fascinating metal with unique properties and cultural significance. The metal has been used in pottery glazes and other decorative items for centuries and has been the subject of myth and legend in various cultures.

Cobalt’s magnetic properties, spin-changing properties, and Curie point make it an essential metal in high-tech applications. While the cost of cobalt can be relatively high, its valuable properties and uses make it an important metal for modern life.

Cobalt is a versatile transition metal with a wide range of uses in industrial and consumer applications. Its unique properties, such as magnetism and spin-changing behavior, make it indispensable in high-tech fields.

Cobalt holds cultural symbolism and tradition, being connected to myths and legends, and is widely used in pottery glazes and decorative items. While the cost of cobalt can be high due to its rarity, its importance in various industries is undeniable.

Cobalt is a metal that impacts our daily lives in many ways, from the batteries in our devices to the colors of our ceramics. It is a valuable resource that continues to shape technology, art, and medicine.


1. Is cobalt toxic?

While cobalt can be toxic in high doses, it is generally safe in small amounts found in everyday products and food. Occupational exposure to high levels of cobalt can lead to poisoning symptoms.

2. What is the significance of cobalt in pottery and ceramics?

Cobalt is used in pottery and ceramics to create vibrant blue and green colors. It has a long-standing tradition in Chinese and Islamic pottery, symbolizing strength and durability.

3. What are the unique properties of cobalt?

Cobalt is the most magnetized common metal and exhibits spin-changing behavior. It also has a Curie point, a temperature at which it loses its magnetic properties.

4. Why is cobalt used in batteries?

Cobalt is used in rechargeable batteries, such as those in mobile devices and electric vehicles, due to its high energy density and long lifespan. 5.

How does cobalt impact human and animal health? Cobalt is an essential component in the production of vitamin B12, crucial for the proper functioning of the nervous system and red blood cell production in humans.

It is also important for animal health, particularly in ruminants like cows. In conclusion, cobalt plays a significant role in our lives, impacting various industries and cultural traditions.

Its distinct properties and uses make it an invaluable resource. While it is important to be aware of potential toxicity in high doses, cobalt’s contributions to technology, art, and health cannot be overlooked.

Popular Posts