Have you heard about tantalum?
If this is the first time you’ve heard of it, you’re not the only one. Most people haven’t got the faintest idea about what tantalum is. What is tantalum, and did you know that it’s a metal?
Much like silver, platinum, and gold, tantalum is a noble metal. It’s actually an unsung hero of the electronics industry and modern metallurgy. You may not be aware of it, but smartphones, laptops, and modern cars have tantalum capacitors in their machinery.
Do you want to learn more about this fascinating metal? We have some interesting facts about tantalum for you. Let’s get started!
What Is Tantalum?
Discovered in 1802 by Swedish chemist Anders Ekeberg, he named the metal after the character Tantalus in Greek mythology. Tantalus is also the origin of the term “tantalizing.” If you’re familiar with his story, then you would associate his name with something akin to eternal frustration.
Anders Ekeberg bestowed the name because of the tantalizing problem of attempting to dissolve the oxide in acids.
Tantalum (chemical symbol: Ta) is a shiny, hard, blue-gray metal that’s exceptionally unyielding to corrosion. At ordinary temperatures, it can resist almost all acids, except for hydrofluoric acid. That’s the reason why Mr. Ekeberg was perplexed when he worked with this metal!
Not only is it resistant to corrosion, but it’s also practically immune to chemical degradation. Like aluminum, tantalum also forms an oxide layer on its surface. This thin but dense layer protects the metal from further corrosion.
Another desirable property is its high melting point. Tantalum belongs to a class of metals called refractory metals. These metals, such as tungsten and niobium, are known for their high resistance to heat and water.
Tantalum has a melting point of 5,462 degrees Fahrenheit. It sits just behind tungsten and rhenium for the highest melting points of all elements.
Engineers in the 21st century know what to do with tantalum metal and its excellent properties. Metal sheets and plates are used in high-temperature environments, such as nuclear reactors. Jet engines incorporate tantalum superalloys for their durability and heat and corrosion resistance.
The electronics industry is taking advantage of the high capacitance of tantalum. Compared to similar devices, capacitors made of this metal have the highest capacitance per volume. Manufacturers can make capacitors that go into your electronics tinier and more efficient.
Tantalum has also found a place in the medical industry. In addition to being chemically inert, it’s also biologically inert. Tantalum has become a popular metal for prosthetics, implants, and surgical instruments.
Tantalum Resources Around the World
Tantalum is a rare metal that can only be found in a handful of countries. You can extract it from columbite-tantalite ore, also known as coltan. The places that supply the ore include countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Nigeria.
Australia accounts for 62 percent of global tantalum reserves, followed by Brazil.
No Longer Tantalizing, Just a Very Useful Metal
What is tantalum? It’s but a metal blessed with an abundance of versatility. Its highly valued properties made it an essential part of numerous industries and applications.
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