Why every electric carmaker is scrambling for access to this element

Cobalt has been unwittingly used since ancient times to provide a blue tint everything from glass to jewelry. But it wasn’t until the 1730s that Swiss chemist George Brandt, convinced there was a hidden element at play, isolated cobalt as the culprit.

Cobalt has since been found to have magnetic properties and a high resistance to heat and corrosion; it is useful in electroplating, the production of high-powered magnets, and in jet and gas turbine engines. (There’s also a radioactive...

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