Elements of Satan and Naughty Demons: Nickel and Cobalt

Elements of Satan and Naughty Demons: Nickel and Cobalt

When we look at the periodic table, we see that there are over a hundred elements. Every element has a name and of course, there is a story behind that name. Today we will learn the story of naming two elements in medieval times that people thought belonged to cursed spirits!

The Inseparable Trio: Iron, Nickel, and Cobalt

This group is one of the most popular triads in chemistry. Most of the time, when we say one, the other two come to mind. This trio is also called the Iron Trio”. It is not a coincidence that the three of them are mentioned together. Iron, nickel, and cobalt have very similar chemical properties. The most well-known common feature is that they can be attracted by magnets. In other words, they are ferromagnetic elements.

Magnet Image

The Shining Star of the Trio: Iron

Iron is the most attractive of the three. For over a thousand years, people have used iron as one of the most basic materials in many fields. The popularity of iron has made it a valuable material. For this reason, miners have worked hard to find this element in the purest possible form. All that was wanted was pure iron, but evil forces in nature didn’t really want iron to be left alone. (!)

Elements of Satan and Naughty Jinn

There are two other elements that the medieval miners did not like to come across while searching for iron: Cobalt and Nickel. As mentioned at the beginning, these two elements are almost always found together with iron. Therefore, it is quite difficult to find iron in pure form.

At that time, there was no information about what these two inseparable elements next to iron were. Encountering these nasty side elements while in search of iron, the miners thought that evil spirits were the cause of this failure.

For this reason, they thought that one of these adherent elements was caused by mischievous demons called “kobolds” in German. For this reason, they named that element “cobalt“.

Devil and Jinn Photo

They thought that the other element attached to the iron was placed by a similar evil spirit, Old Nick. Old Nick is one of the devil’s nicknames in the Christian tradition. The devil, who wanted iron not to be obtained, spread his evil doings by gluing this element to iron. That’s why they named this element “Nickel”.

Properties of Nickel

Although nickel does not seem very popular among other elements, it is the 24th most abundant element in the world. Found especially in Canada, this element is often used to make alloys. It has an important position, especially in the production of stainless steel. It is often used in corrosion and temperature-resistant coatings and magnetic alloys.

More than 2000 years ago, copper and nickel alloy coins were used. Today, the American coin (cent) uses the same nickel alloy.

Another important area of ​​use is the battery made with the element cadmium. Thanks to nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries, many electronic devices have become portable by getting rid of cables.

Nickel Image
Image Source:

Properties of Cobalt

The place of cobalt, a transition metal, in the periodic table is between iron and nickel. But it is not found as often as nickel or iron. Only 0.0020% of the Earth’s crust consists of cobalt. This rarity makes cobalt more valuable than iron and nickel. Cobalt has many uses in industry. It is used in many commercial and military devices, especially by alloying with other metals.

Today, with the rise of rechargeable batteries, cobalt has become one of the favorite candidates in this field. In addition, it has become an indispensable element in the petroleum, paint, magnetic industry, and electronic systems thanks to its ferromagnetic feature (the ability to be attracted by a magnet).

Cobalt Image
Image Source: Wikipedia

In addition, new approaches are also used in neurological, dental, orthopedic, and cardiovascular implants, thanks to cobalt’s resistance to corrosion, mechanical properties, and biocompatibility.

References and Further Readings

The Iron Triad: Iron, Cobalt, and Nickel. (2020, August 25). Retrieved June 5, 2021, from

Vlasov, LN, & Trifonov, DN (1977). 107 stories about chemistry. Moscow: Mir.

You can access the sources of the images used by clicking on the images.

The proofreading has been done by Asu Pelin Akköse and Mete Esencan.

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Mete Esencan

Hello everyone! I'm Mete Esencan. I am a graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at METU. I was planning to establish a platform by combining the research knowledge I gained during my basic science education and the management experience I gained in the METU Chemistry Society, which I was in charge of for three years. For this purpose, in February of 2021, I took the first step and established the OkButWhy, a platform where we can write articles as if to chat about science, art and philosophy. I wish everyone a pleasant reading!

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