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Tantalum

What is Tantalum

Tantalum (pronounced as TAN-te-lem) belongs to the family of transition metals and denoted by the chemical symbol Ta. It has thirty-one isotopes out of which tantalum-181 is the most stable one. It is further processed to produce sheets, capillary tubes, wires, rods, foils, plates, bars, and balls for different commercial applications [1].

Tantalum

Where is it Found

A rare-earth metal, it is obtained from tantalite, euxenite, and columbite. Ores of these minerals are found in Australia, Mozambique, Brazil, Thailand, Nigeria, Zaire, Portugal and Canada from where Ta is mined. It is also extracted as a byproduct of tin [11].

Its abundance is about 1.7 parts per million and 0.2 parts per million by moles on earth [3].

Tantalum Balls

Tantalum History

Origin of its Name: It is named after the Greek mythological king Tantalus.

Who Discovered it: In 1903, the element was synthesized by the German scientist, Werner Von Bolton.

Tantalum Pictures

When and Where was Tantalum Discovered

In 1802, Angers Gustav Ekeberg at the Uppsala University, Sweden claimed to have found a new metal. William Wollaston did a further analysis of the mineral ore called coltan (columbite-tantalite) from where the metal was extracted and declared it to be the element niobium, already discovered before. Due to the similarity in the chemical properties, identifying the new metal was challenging as there were no methods available during those days to separate the two elements.

In 1846, Heinrich Rose separated the suspected metal from niobium to prove that they were different elements. However, certain impurities were still present in it. It was only in 1903 when Werner Von Bolton finally produced pure tantalum [1].

Tantalum Element

Classification and Position of the Element on the Periodic Table [1]

Group 5
Period 6
Block d

Properties of Tantalum [1, 2, 3]

General Properties

Relative atomic mass 180.948
Atomic mass 180.948 atomic mass units [13]
Molar mass 180.94788 u (g/mol)

Physical Properties

Color Gray
Luster Metallic
Texture Unknown
Odor Unknown
Malleability Yes
Ductility Yes
Melting point/freezing point 3017°C (5463°F)
Boiling point 5455°C (9851°F)
Density 16.4 g/cm3
State at normal room temperature (solid/liquid/gas) Solid
Hardness 6.5 Mohs
Yield strength 25 ksi
Tensile strength 900 Mpa
Young’s modulus 186 Gpa
Work function 4.8 eV
Resistivity 1.3 x 10-7Ω⋅m
Thermal (heat) conductivity 57.5 W m-1 K-1
Emissivity 14

Magnetic Properties

Magnetic Type Paramagnetic
Mass Magnetic Susceptibility 1.07×10-8 m3/Kg
Molar Magnetic Susceptibility 1.936×10-9 m3/mol

Chemical Properties

Flammability Yes
Oxidation states 5

Atomic Data of Tantalum [1, 2, 3]

Atomic Number 73
Valence Electrons 5
Quantum Numbers
– n 5
– ℓ 2
– m 0
– m s +1/2
Electron Configuration [Xe] 4f145d36s2
Primary XPS Region Ta4f
Crystal Structure bcc: body-centered cube
Lattice Constants 0.33058 nm
Atomic Structure
– Number of Electrons 73
– Number of Neutrons 108
– Number of Protons 73
Radius of Atom
– Atomic Radius 2.22 Å
– Covalent Radius 1.58 Å
Electronegativity 1.5
Ionization Energy

(kJmol-1)

1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
728.423

Tantalum Bohr Model (Atomic Structure)

Tantalum Reactivity

Although Ta is immune to chemical attack barring few acids and acidic solutions, it may become reactive at higher temperature [6].

Tantalum Metal

Tantalum Uses

  • Tantalum is used in capacitors where an oxide layer formed on it acts as an insulator (dielectric) to store more charge. A thin layer of Ta is also coated on other metals to achieve a higher capacitance in a smaller volume. Due to this reason, it is suitable for portable electronic devices like mobile phones [1, 4].
  • The high corrosion resistance of the element makes it an important component in large-scale equipment such as pipes, tubing, tanks, heat exchangers, and vessels exposed to extreme corrosive materials [1, 5].
  • As the metal causes no immune response when in contact with bodily fluids, it offers some medical uses such as making orthopedic joint implants, surgical skull plates, suture materials, and woven gauze (mesh) [1, 2]. In fact, some clinical trials have also suggested the use of porous tantalum as a safe orthopedic and dental implant [7, 12]
  • Tantalum increases the strength, ductility, and melting point of alloys used in turbine blades, and rocket nozzles and nose caps of supersonic aircraft [1].
  • It is often used as an electrode in neon lights [1].
  • Another use is as an economical substitute for platinum [2].
  • It finds application as a component in AC/DC rectifiers [1].
  • The element is used in the fabrication of chemical process equipment, nuclear reactors, and aircraft and missile parts [6].
  • Another application of Ta is in the making of jewelry and accessories like rings and wristbands.
  • It is used in the making of resistors.
  • The oxide of tantalum is used to increase the refractive index of camera lens [2, 5].
  • The carbide of tantalum, when combined with graphite, forms a hard composite that is coated on the cutting edges of high-speed machine tools [2].

Tantalum Capacitor

Toxicity and Health Hazards of Tantalum

It exhibits low toxicity though accidental inhalation can lead to lung inflammation. Based on some animal studies, continuous deposits of Ta and its compounds in the body may cause severe pulmonary disorders [8].

Tantalum Ring

Interesting Facts

  • Ta was the first metal filament used in lamps between 1902 and 1909 before tungsten took its place [9].
  • If the quantity of tantalum exceeds niobium, the mineral ore is labeled as tantalite. On the other hand, the mineral source is identified as columbite when the opposite occurs [10].
  • Commercial tantalum is used mostly in its the powdered form to make electronic devices [10].
  • The unstable tantalum-180 is the rarest isotope in the universe [10].

Tantalum Rods

Tantalum Price

The cost of the element is somewhere between $150 and $170 per 1000 grams.

References

  1. http://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/element/73/tantalum
  2. https://education.jlab.org/itselemental/ele073.html
  3. https://www.chemicool.com/elements/tantalum.html
  4. http://www.capacitorguide.com/tantalum-capacitor/
  5. https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2014/3054/pdf/fs2014-3054.pdf
  6. http://periodic.lanl.gov/73.shtml
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3491782/
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/81-123/pdfs/0585.pdf
  9. http://www.edisontechcenter.org/incandescent.html
  10. http://www.softschools.com/facts/periodic_table/tantalum_facts/234/
  11. https://www.webelements.com/tantalum/geology.html
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708989/
  13. https://hobart.k12.in.us/ksms/PeriodicTable/tantalum.htm

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