History of Cobalt Alloys
Ancient Knowledge of Cobalt
The use of cobalt dates back to 2000 to 3000 BC. Although it was not identified as "cobalt" its addition to glass was used to create glass products of the traditional cobalt blue coloring.
The name "cobalt" has origins from the Erzgebirge region of Saxony, an area of silver mines. The term "Kobald" refers to spirits, gnomes or gremlins (air force slang) who frequented the mines causing trouble. Problems in the mines were blamed on cobalt. They were due to the cobalt interfering with the silver smelting and causing respiratory problems with the miners ... here cobalt is arsenical. The term passed to the metal.
Discovery of Cobalt
Cobalt is a hard ferromagnetic metallic element discovered by a Swedish chemist, George Brandt, in 1739. It is usually recovered as a by-product of mining/refining nickel, silver, lead, copper and iron.
Uses of Cobalt
Historically, many of the commercial cobalt-base alloys are derived from the cobalt-chromium-tungsten and cobalt-chromium-molybdenum ternaries first investigated in the early part of the 20th century, by Elwood Haynes.
Haynes discovered the high strength and stainless nature of the binary cobalt-chromium alloy, and he later identified tungsten and molybdenum as powerful strengthening agents within the cobalt-chromium system.
When he discovered these alloys, Haynes named them the Stellite alloys after the Latin stella (star), because of their star-like luster. Having discovered their high strength at elevated temperatures, Haynes also promoted the use of Stellite alloys as cutting tool materials.
The main use of cobalt remained as a coloring agent right up to the 20th Century and in fact, before 1914, cobalt was really only available or used as the oxide. With Haynes' Stellite alloys, modern uses of cobalt include the development of Alnico magnets in Japan and the use of cobalt to bind tungsten carbide in Germany.
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