Molybdenum is a chemical element and is represented by the chemical symbol Mo and the atomic number 42. It is a silver metal with the sixth highest melting point of any element. It is never found as a free metal naturally on Earth, but can be found in many minerals. The most important of these minerals is molybdenite, which accounts for much of the commercial supply. Molybdenum is also mined as a byproduct of copper and tungsten mining. It is the 54th most common element in the crust of the Earth and the largest producers are China, the United States, Chile, Peru and Mexico. It has many important uses, including in the creation of superalloys. Let’s find out who discovered this element.
Who discovered molybdenum?
The mineral molybdenite, once called Molybdena, has been known for centuries. It was originally thought to be graphite and once it was discovered that this was not the case it was confused with the lead ore known as galena. In 1754 the Swedish chemist Bengt Andersson Qvist was the first to determine that the mineral did not contain lead. In 1778 the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele proposed that the mineral was an ore that contained an entirely new element, which he named molybdenum from the name of the mineral. Scheele was later proved to be correct when, in 1781, fellow Swedish chemist Peter Jacob Hjelm became the first person to isolate the pure molybdenum metal.
Molybdenum was not used commercially for about a century. It was the work of Frank E. Elmore, who developed a new way to recover molybdenite from ore, that led to an increase in production of the metal. After this time the metal became an important part of many super strong alloys.
Did you know?
There is evidence that the Japanese were attempting to alloy molybdenum with steel in the 14th century. However, this technique was not widely known and was eventually lost.