Cobalt’s role in magnets, rechargeable batteries, and catalysts has a major impact in reducing the levels of greenhouse gases, such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. These greenhouse gases, absorb the energy released by the sun preventing the loss of heat to space, and in doing so, warm up the planet resulting in global warming.
Rechargeable Batteries and Magnets
Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas that is emitted from human activities. The major emission of carbon dioxide comes from the combustion of fossil fuels used in energy and transport. Using renewable energy as a substitute to fossil fuels reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Wind turbines require powerful magnets containing cobalt, which are therefore essential for renewable wind energy. Rechargeable batteries, where cobalt is present in the cathode, allow for reduction of electricity use (fossil fuel consumption), and ancillary storage systems (batteries containing cobalt) allow for the storage of solar energy.
Nitrous Oxide accounts for around 6% of the USA’s greenhouse gas emissions. Despite such a low proportion, nitrous oxides are estimated to be around 300 times more potent in warming the planet than carbon dioxide. A major source of nitrous oxide is as a by-product from industrial processes. By using cobalt as a catalyst, nitrous oxide emissions can be greatly reduced.
The use of cobalt in catalyst applications supports the Climate Change initiatives for reduction of greenhouse gases. For example, the commercialisation of the fuel employed by cars is only possible after it has been refined with catalysts containing cobalt compounds which help make it more eco-friendly through the reduction of sulphur and nitrous oxide emissions. ' In particular, one tonne of cobalt compounds applied as catalyst mixture contributes to a SOx emission reduction of 25,000 tonnes and a NOx emission reduction of 750 tonnes per year '.
Catalysts represent a major use sector for cobalt and cobalt compounds, and the use of catalysts is integral to a sustainable planet. A major use of cobalt compound containing catalysts for example includes oil desulphurisation whereby the sulphur moiety is removed from the petroleum stream reducing the greenhouse gas content of the air exhaust. Cobalt containing catalysts are also integral for the use in the plastics industry both in the synthesis of plasticisers and in the OXO process (to produce aldehydes from alkenes).