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Cobalt is a rare metal that was once prized as a beautiful blue pigment. Its use for this purpose dates back to ancient times, with traces in pottery from the ruins of Pompeii, and in jewellery and glass from the Ming and Tang dynasties. In its natural form it is a dull silver colour, but when heated and combined with aluminium silicates it produces an amazing blue that can be used to paint.
It is also a key element in rechargeable batteries, and it has a strong magnetic properties that make it ideal for the production of high strength, wear resistant alloys and magnets. It is also important in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries for electronic devices and electric vehicles. Cobalt is an essential component for aircraft engines, and it has a number of other uses in chemicals such as cobalt chloride and cobalt carboxylates that can be used in paints, varnishes, and inks as drying agents through the oxidation process.
The supply of high-grade cobalt powder is a key issue, and there are a variety of ways in which it can be produced. These include solid phase reduction in reducing atmospheres, hydrometallurgical processing in leach autoclaves, carbonyl process, chemical precipitation and electrowinning using parallel plate electrodes . However, these processes are challenging due to the need for harsh conditions for operation and to minimise yield loss. This article discusses the potential for utilising a water atomisation pulverising device in the electrowinning of Co from solutions with low concentrations, as an alternative to conventional methods of producing cobalt powder.