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Fact Sheet 2011–3081

Cobalt—For Strength and Color

By M.A. Boland and S.J. Kropschot

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Cobalt is a shiny, gray, brittle metal that is best known for creating an intense blue color in glass and paints. It is frequently used in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries and to create alloys that maintain their strength at high temperatures. It is also one of the essential trace elements (or "micronutrients") that humans and many other living creatures require for good health. Cobalt is an important component in many aerospace, defense, and medical applications and is a key element in many clean energy technologies.

The name cobalt comes from the German word kobold, meaning goblin. It was given this name by medieval miners who believed that troublesome goblins replaced the valuable metals in their ore with a substance that emitted poisonous fumes when smelted. The Swedish chemist Georg Brandt isolated metallic cobalt—the first new metal to be discovered since ancient times—in about 1735 and identified some of its valuable properties.

Posted August 2011

For additional information contact:
Mineral Resources Program Coordinator
U.S. Geological Survey
913 National Center
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 20192-0002
Telephone: (703) 648–6100
Fax: (703) 648–6057


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Suggested citation:

Boland, M.A., and Kropschot, S.J., 2011, Cobalt—For strength and color: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2011-3081, 2 p., available at

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