Ordered mesoporous carbons, as potential catalyst supports, have attracted great attention in the catalysis field in recent years. Researchers have attempted to introduce guest particles into these carbons by versatile methods. Great success has been achieved with noble metal particles because of their lower sintering tendency. However, challenges occurred with more active metals such as cobalt because of their much higher sintering tendency, the hydrophobic nature of the carbon surface and channel confinement effects, which were believed to have prevented the wetness of the surface. Most researchers found that the carbon surface had to be specially treated to achieve good metal dispersion. In our current work, cobalt@carbon composites were synthesized using CMK-3 as the carbon support and cobalt nitrate hexahydrate as the metal precursor. We demonstrated the facile control of the metal particle size and dispersion by carefully controlling the impregnation conditions according to the physical chemistry of the precursor. Our results suggested that not only the acid pre-treatment of the carbon surface and the ammonia post-treatment of the cobalt nitrate precursor improved the metal dispersion but also simple impregnation itself could achieve good metal dispersion if the preparation conditions were controlled as suggested. Highly thermal stable cobalt@carbon composites with very well-controlled cobalt dispersion (15 wt ) and particle size ( 4-20 nm) were produced. ? 2014 the Partner Organisations.