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Cobalt is a chemical element with the symbol Co and atomic number 27,
It belongs to the first-row transition series of elements in the periodic table and does not exist in its purest form naturally – it only exists in combination with other elements. When fully extracted and refined from its ore, cobalt appears as a lustrous, bluish-white metal. It is usually combined with iron to form different alloys in many applications.
Cobalt is a ferromagnetic material, hard yet brittle. It has a high melting point and is hard-wearing at elevated temperatures. It has high strength and possesses good conduction properties.
Below are some key properties of cobalt
Atomic Number: 27
Atomic weight: 58.93 g/mol
Classification: Transition Metal
Crystal Structure: Hexagonal close packed
Melting Point: 1493°C (2719°F)
Boiling Point: 2870°C (5612°F)
Density: 8.85 g/cm3
It has a hexagonal closed pack crystal structure at temperatures below 417 °C (783 °F) and has 12 radioactive isotopes. The most popular is cobalt-60 with a half-life of 5.3 years, which is widely used in medical applications
Production and processing
Cobalt occurs typically in nature in cobaltite, smaltite, and erythrite minerals. It is mined along with nickel, silver, lead, copper, and iron ore and is often obtained as a by-product. The extraction of cobalt can be done using solvent extraction . The laterite ore undergoes a reduction process at 525°C with carbon monoxide. This reduces nickel and iron to ferronickel, and the cobalt and copper to a metallic state. The minerals are then leached with a 100 g/L ammonium hydroxide (NH4OH), 300 g/L (NH4)2SO4 solution in a controlled oxidation leach to solubilise nickel, copper, and cobalt.
Cobalt has been used in many industrial, commercial, and military applications . Below are some of its common applications:
Cobalt-based superalloys form high-temperature resistant parts for gas turbine aircraft engines, space vehicles, rocket motors, and other aerospace applications. Cobalt-based superalloys have a higher melting point than iron or nickel, and have excellent resistance to hot corrosion and thermal fatigue. The weldability of this superalloy is also better than nickel superalloys. Altogether, cobalt-based superalloys perform exceptionally in applications with low stress and elevated temperature environments
High-speed steel alloys
Cobalt steel is a variation of high-speed steel with common grades M-35 and M-42. It is an ideal cutting tool for its high red hardness that in turn provides high heat resistance. The cobaltic high-speed steel is able to run and withstand high feed rates and faster speed
Cobalt is used widely as one of the metals needed to create hard permanent magnets with high coercivity, such as the aluminium-nickel-cobalt (Al-Ni-Co) alloy series.
Alnico magnets are used in motors, hard disk drives, and sensors. Magnetic resonance imaging is an example of an application for these magnetic alloys.
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