Why is Cobalt Magnetic? (+ 3 Fascinating Facts to Know)

Yes, cobalt is magnetic. Cobalt is ferromagnetic, which means it can be permanently magnetized. 1 It possesses unpaired electrons in its atomic structure, allowing it to exhibit a strong magnetic response.

Well, this was just a simple answer. But there are few more things to know about this topic which will make your concept super clear.

So let’s dive right into it.

Key Takeaways: Why is Cobalt Magnetic?

  • Cobalt is magnetic because it has unpaired electrons in its atomic structure.
  • Cobalt’s magnetic strength is relatively high compared to many other magnetic materials, but it falls short when compared to rare-earth magnets.
  • Cobalt’s magnetic behavior is affected by temperature, with cobalt exhibiting ferromagnetic behavior at low temperatures and paramagnetic behavior at high temperatures.

In case you want to know more about ferromagnetic materials, you can watch this 1 minute video. This video will show you how the ferromagnetic materials behave under magnetic fields.

Explanation: Why is cobalt magnetic?

Cobalt is magnetic due to its unique atomic structure. 2 Its electrons are arranged in such a way that there is a net magnetic moment, causing it to exhibit strong magnetic properties.

In more detail, cobalt is a transition metal with an atomic number of 27. 3 Its magnetic properties stem from the arrangement of its electrons and the presence of unpaired electrons in its outermost energy level. 4

In its ground state, cobalt has a partially filled 3d orbital, which contributes to its magnetic behavior. The unpaired electrons in the 3d orbital align their spins, creating a net magnetic moment. This alignment allows cobalt to interact strongly with magnetic fields and exhibit magnetic properties.

Cobalt’s magnetic behavior is further enhanced by the presence of neighboring cobalt atoms in a solid material. In a crystalline structure, cobalt atoms align their magnetic moments with each other, resulting in a collective magnetic behavior.

This alignment can lead to the formation of permanent magnets, as seen in alloys such as cobalt steel or certain cobalt-based rare-earth magnets. 5

The unique electronic structure of cobalt, with its partially filled 3d orbital and the alignment of unpaired electrons, is responsible for its magnetic properties.

These properties make cobalt useful in various applications, including magnetic storage devices, electric motors, and magnetic alloys for industrial and technological purposes.

How does the magnetic strength of cobalt compare to other magnetic materials?

Cobalt is known for its relatively high magnetic strength compared to many other magnetic materials. Its magnetic strength is notably stronger than materials like iron and nickel, but it falls short when compared to rare-earth magnets.

The magnetic strength of a material is typically measured in terms of its magnetic moment or its magnetic saturation. 6 Cobalt has a high magnetic moment, which refers to the strength of its magnetic field. This makes cobalt magnets stronger than iron and nickel magnets.

However, when comparing cobalt to rare-earth magnets, such as neodymium magnets, cobalt’s magnetic strength is lower. Rare-earth magnets have an exceptionally high magnetic moment and exhibit much stronger magnetic properties compared to cobalt. These magnets are capable of generating significantly stronger magnetic fields.

Overall, while cobalt possesses strong magnetic properties and is superior to many common magnetic materials, it is not as powerful as rare-earth magnets when it comes to magnetic strength. The choice of magnetic material depends on the specific application and the desired magnetic properties required.

How does temperature affect the magnetic behavior of cobalt?

At low temperatures, cobalt exhibits ferromagnetic behavior, meaning it can be magnetized and retain its magnetization even in the absence of an external magnetic field. As the temperature increases, cobalt undergoes a phase transition and loses its ferromagnetic properties, becoming paramagnetic instead. 7

To further explain, when cobalt is cooled to temperatures below its Curie temperature, it aligns its atomic magnetic moments in a parallel manner, resulting in a strong net magnetization. 8

This alignment allows cobalt to exhibit ferromagnetic behavior, where it can be magnetized and retain its magnetization, creating a strong magnetic field. This behavior is attributed to the interaction between the localized magnetic moments of the cobalt atoms.

However, as the temperature increases beyond the Curie temperature, the thermal energy disrupts the alignment of the magnetic moments. The thermal energy agitates the atoms, causing their magnetic moments to become randomly oriented. This randomness results in a cancellation of magnetic moments and a loss of net magnetization.

As a result, cobalt transitions from a ferromagnetic state to a paramagnetic state, where it no longer exhibits a strong magnetic field and cannot retain magnetization in the absence of an external magnetic field.

In summary, the temperature affects the magnetic behavior of cobalt by inducing a phase transition from ferromagnetism to paramagnetism as the temperature rises above the Curie temperature. This transition is a result of the disruption of the aligned magnetic moments caused by increasing thermal energy.

What are some practical applications of cobalt’s magnetic properties?

Cobalt’s magnetic properties have numerous practical applications across various fields. Some of the key applications include:

  • Permanent Magnets: Cobalt is widely used in the production of permanent magnets due to its strong magnetic properties, high Curie temperature, and resistance to demagnetization. 9 These magnets are crucial components in various applications, including electric motors, generators, magnetic sensors, and magnetic storage devices.
  • Magnetic Recording Media: Cobalt-based alloys are employed in the manufacturing of magnetic recording media, such as hard disk drives (HDDs). 10 The high coercivity and magnetic stability of cobalt alloys make them ideal for storing and retrieving large amounts of data in computer systems and other digital devices.
  • Magnetic Alloys: Cobalt is frequently alloyed with other metals to create high-performance magnetic alloys. For instance, cobalt-based alloys, like Alnico (aluminum-nickel-cobalt) and Samarium-Cobalt (SmCo), exhibit excellent magnetic properties, such as high coercivity and strong magnetic fields, making them valuable in applications like electric motors, sensors, and magnetic couplings. 11 12
  • Catalysts: Cobalt-based catalysts are employed in various industrial processes, including petroleum refining, chemical synthesis, and hydrogenation reactions. The unique magnetic properties of cobalt allow for precise control of catalytic reactions, improving efficiency and selectivity.
  • Biomedical Applications: Cobalt has found applications in the medical field. Cobalt-based alloys, such as Co-Cr-Mo, are used in orthopedic implants due to their high strength, corrosion resistance, and biocompatibility. 13 Additionally, cobalt compounds are used in the production of contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), enabling non-invasive visualization of internal body structures.
  • Magnetic Sensors: Cobalt is utilized in the production of magnetic sensors, such as magnetoresistive sensors and Hall effect sensors. 14 These sensors are employed in a wide range of applications, including navigation systems, position detection, automotive electronics, and magnetic field measurement devices.

These are just a few examples of the practical applications of cobalt’s magnetic properties. Cobalt’s unique magnetic characteristics make it indispensable in various industries, contributing to technological advancements and improving our daily lives.

Further reading

Is Aluminum Magnetic?
Is Copper Magnetic?
Is Brass Magnetic?
Is Tin Magnetic?
Is Magnesium Magnetic? 

About author

Jay is an educator and has helped more than 100,000 students in their studies by providing simple and easy explanations on different science-related topics. He is a founder of Pediabay and is passionate about helping students through his easily digestible explanations.

Read more about our Editorial process.


  1. Gsu.edu http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/Solids/ferro.html
  2. Bu.edu http://physics.bu.edu/py106/notes/MagMaterials.html
  3. P. (n.d.). Cobalt | Co (Element) – PubChem. Cobalt | Co (Element) – PubChem. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/element/Cobalt
  4. It’s Elemental – The Element Cobalt. (n.d.). It’s Elemental – the Element Cobalt. https://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele027.html
  5. Samarium–cobalt magnet – Wikipedia. (2017, January 10). Samarium–cobalt Magnet – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samarium%E2%80%93cobalt_magnet
  6. Magnetic moment – Wikipedia. (2016, February 19). Magnetic Moment – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_moment
  7. Curie temperature – Wikipedia. (2020, January 21). Curie Temperature – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curie_temperature
  8. Curie point | physics. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/Curie-point
  9. Mohapatra, J., Xing, M., Elkins, J., & Liu, J. P. (2020, May). Hard and semi-hard magnetic materials based on cobalt and cobalt alloys. Journal of Alloys and Compounds, 824, 153874. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jallcom.2020.153874
  10. Magnetic storage – Wikipedia. (2010, June 24). Magnetic Storage – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetic_storage
  11. Alnico – Wikipedia. (2015, September 9). Alnico – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alnico
  12. Samarium–cobalt magnet – Wikipedia. (2017, January 10). Samarium–cobalt Magnet – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samarium%E2%80%93cobalt_magnet
  13. Metallic implant biomaterials https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mser.2014.10.001
  14. Epshtein, E., Krikunov, A., & Ogrin, Y. (2003, March). Planar Hall effect in thin-film magnetic structures. Cobalt films on silicon substrates. Journal of Magnetism and Magnetic Materials, 258–259, 80–83. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0304-8853(02)01115-0

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top