Tantalum is a very valuable metal, however due to the current circumstances it faces, investing in the metal is going to be a big risk. Often called a conflict resource, tantalum is being fought over by multiple armed forces by several different countries.
History and Origin of Tantalum
Tantalum has a shaky history and origin since it was discovered by multiple people who taught that it was just a plain old mineral.
The first person to discover tantalum was a man named Anders G. Ekeberg. Ekeberg discovered tantalum in 1802, while he was roaming inside the rock mines of Sweden. But it was in 1809 that the element was identified by the English chemist, William H. Wollaston. However Wollaston believed that the new element was simply a new form of niobium, and as such he did not name the element.
It wasn’t until in 1846 that German mineralogist Heinrich Rose proved that the new element was different from niobium. In 1903, which was decades after Heinrich Rose’s discovery, Werner von Bolton was the first to refine tantalum. With this he created the first filaments for the early light bulbs which was soon replaced by tungsten filaments.
Tantalum got its name after the Greek figure Tantalus while niobium was named after Niobe. The element was named like this since Tantalus was the father of Niobe. And since tantalum was very similar to niobium, it would be fitting that the new element be named after Tantalus.
What is Tantalum?
Tantalum has the chemical symbol of Ta, it has an atomic number of 73. Tantalum is a rare metal that takes up about 2 ppm of the earth’s crust, it is hard and it is highly resistant to corrosion. It has bluish gray appearance and it is very shiny and lustrous. Tantalum has a very high melting point of about 3017 °C, it is one of the metals with the highest melting points.
Tantalum is a very dense metals but it is also very ductile as well. This makes it easy to manipulate and it can easily be fabricated. Tantalum is also a good conductor of heat and electricity. Tantalum is very much known for its high resistance to acids. It is immune to most acids, and other corrosive substances as well. However tantalum can be dissolved by hydrofluoric acid and other substances that contains fluoride ions.
Tantalum is a transition metal and it is part of the refractory metal group. Tantalum’s inertness makes it a good component for alloys. It also makes it a good substance to be experimented upon. Tantalum is often used as a substitute for platinum.
Uses of Tantalum
Tantalum being a rare metal has tons of uses and applications. In the modern world tantalum is being used for electronics, medicine, industrial construction, and so much more! Some of the major uses for tantalum include:
Tantalum is a critical component when it comes to creating highly functional semiconductors. Tantalum is distributed on semiconductor substrates using a technique called physical vapor deposition. With this method a thin film of tantalum is formed which protects the semiconductors and improves its conductibility.
Tantalum is non-toxic and it isn’t very reactive, this makes it ideal for use in surgical implants. Its effectiveness as an implant is quite similar to implants made out of ceramics or special plastics. However tantalum has the edge over ceramic implants because it is stronger and it is more durable.
Just like with surgical implants, tantalum is often used as materials to create surgical tools as well. It’s strong, lightweight and easy to use.
Chemical Processing Equipment
Tantalum is one of the most corrosion resistant metals known to man. It is immune to almost any form of acid below the temperatures of 150 degrees. There are some acids that affect tantalum but they aren’t that many.
Because of its high corrosion resistant properties, tantalum is often used as materials for vessels, valves, pipes and other chemical containers.
Because of its high melting point tantalum is often used to coat jet engines and other equipment exposed to extreme heat.
Tantalum can help increase the transparency and refractive index of glass. This is done by adding tantalum oxide to glass. This makes the glass lighter, more transparent, and more refractive.
Tantalum is used as a strong, durable but highly ductile metal. It can easily be combined with other metals to make them stronger. However because tantalum is so rare, only a little of it is mixed with other metals.
The creation of capacitors is one of the primary uses for tantalum, being a good conductor of electricity, tantalum is often used to create components for electronics. It estimated that about 60% of the world’s tantalum is being used to make capacitors.
Asides from its conductivity, tantalum make superior capacitors thanks to metal’s ductility which greatly increases its capacitance value and helps stabilize the capacitor.