Cobalt is a metal that has the symbol Co and an atomic number of 27. While in its typical metallic form it is a silvery-grey metal, it has been used for centuries as a pigment for paints in the form of a blue colour. How many of these fun cobalt facts did you know?
- The history of cobalt use dates back well over five thousand years: There is evidence of cobalt present in artefacts from ancient Egypt, in sculptures and jewellery. There is also evidence of it being used to dye glass blue in many ancient civilisations.
- Georg Brandt, a Swedish chemist, is credited with the discovery of cobalt in 1735: Prior to that, scientists had thought it was a variety of bismuth, but Brandt was able to prove it was a unique element.
- Brandt’s discovery of cobalt gives him a unique distinction amongst other chemists: His findings make him the first person to discover a metal since prehistoric times. He initially labelled it a “semi-metal”.
- The native metal of cobalt is not found anywhere on earth: That’s because of the amount of oxygen and chlorine that are present in earth which prevent native cobalt from forming.
- One unusual source of cobalt is actually tobacco smoke: This unusual fact is due to tobacco absorbing heavy metals in the soil it grows in. Studies have shown that smokers inhale some amount of cobalt when smoking.
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the world’s largest producer of cobalt: In 2015, the nation produced around 60% of the world’s cobalt; around 32,000 tonnes. Up to 25% of this was through low-scale artisinal mining.
- Political instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo therefore has a major influence on the price of cobalt: Cobalt has become increasingly expensive in recent years as demand increases, particularly for its use in batteries for electric vehicles.
- The Mukondo Mine in the DRC is believed to hold the world’s largest reserve of cobalt: There’s an estimated 500,000 tonnes of cobalt, in addition to 1.5 million tonnes of copper. The mine is located in Katanga Province.
- There has been much controversy in recent years over the conditions of the miners who work cobalt mines in the DRC: Critics have highlighted that child labour is being used, prompting some cobalt buyers to change suppliers.
Fun Cobalt Facts:
- Humans, and indeed all living things, require some amount of cobalt in their diets to maintain their metabolism: Cobalt is present in vitamin B12. Livestock farmed in areas with low cobalt salt content in the soil have been known to get ill.
- Cobalt gets its name from the German word kobold, which is actually a supernatural goblin character from German folklore: The metal was given this name in a reference to the fact that cobalt ore is typically poisonous and can pollute other minerals.