Cobalt is a bluish-gray, shiny, brittle metallic element. Its atomic number is 27 and its symbol is Co. It belongs to a group of elements called the transition metals. It has magnetic properties like iron.Ancient civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia used a substance to color glass a beautiful deep blue.Cobalt is one of the elements that is very important to life, including human life and health. Vitamin B-12 contains cobalt. In areas where there is little cobalt in the soil, farmers have to provide salt blocks containing cobalt for their animals to lick in order to provide enough cobalt in their diet.Cobalt is also found in iron-nickel meteorites.
Application of cobalt
Cobalt has been used by civilizations for centuries to create beautiful deep blue glass, ceramics, pottery and tiles. In a similar way, it is being used to make paint pigments.In addition to these traditional uses, cobalt is used in a number of industrial applications. When cobalt is alloyed with other metals, very strong magnets are created. Used in superalloys for jet engines, chemicals (paint driers, catalysts, magnetic coatings, pigments, rechargeable batteries), magnets, and cemented carbides for cutting tools.
Superalloys containing cobalt are used in the production of jet engines and gas turbine engines for energy generation. These superalloys account for nearly half of the cobalt used each year. Some cobalt is used to make cutting and wear-resistant materials.A manmade isotope of cobalt, cobalt-60, produces gamma rays. This is used for sterilization of medical supplies and foods, for industrial testing, and to fight cancer.
Distribution of cobalt
It is estimated that there are about 1 million tons of cobalt in the United States. Minnesota has the largest resources, but other ore resources are found in Alaska, California, Idaho, Missouri, Montana and Oregon. The identified cobalt resources in the world total about 15 million tons. Principal cobalt producing countries include Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Canada, Cuba, Australia, and Russia.
The ocean floor has nodules of metals that form when hot water from deep in the Earth comes into contact with the cold ocean water. These nodules are mostly manganese and so are called manganese nodules. It is estimated that there are millions of tons of cobalt in these nodules. Presently, we do not have the technology to retrieve these nodules at a reasonable cost
All of the primary cobalt used in the U.S. is imported. The United States uses about one-third of total world consumption. Cobalt resources in the United States are low grade and production from these deposits is usually not economically feasible.Cobalt is imported into the United States in the form of cobalt metal, cobalt salts, and cobalt oxide. The imports come from Norway, Finland, Canada, Russia, and other nations.