42Mo Molybdenum

Year Discovered


Discovered By

Carl Wilhelm Scheele

Biological Rating

Necessary for all life.


Named from the Greek word meaning “lead” (it is often confused with lead minerals), molybdenum is a very hard, lustrous, silvery-white metal. It is fairly stable but will react with acids. Molybdenum has the fifth highest melting point of any element and is alloyed with steel for use in rifle barrels, filaments, and any application that must resist high temperatures. It has the added benefit of adding to steel’s strength. It was not possible to cast molybdenum until 1959, when a special water-cooled cast was constructed. Molybdenum is also used in electrodes, as a catalyst, and as a high-temperature lubricant. Molybdenum was discovered as a new element by Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1778, and was isolated and named by Peter Jacob Hjelm in 1781.

Biological Benefits

In very small amounts, molybdenum is an essential trace element to all species. It is especially important to plants, as it is needed in enzymes that fix nitrogen. Soils that have no molybdenum are generally unfit to support plant life.

Role in Life Processes

Critical for life processes in plants and animals.

Percentage Amount in the Human Body: 0.000007%


Molybdenum is chiefly obtained from the minerals molybdenite and wulfenite. It is also obtained as a by-product of copper and tungsten mining and processing. It is mined in the USA, Peru, Russia, Chile, Canada, and China.