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Introduction to Tantalum

Tantalum is a chemical element represented by the symbol Ta and the atomic number is 73. Formerly known as tantalum, it is named after Tantalus, a Greek mythological villain. Tantalum is a highly corrosion-resistant, rare, strong, blue-grey, lustrous transition metal. It is part of the group of refractory metals that, in alloys, are commonly used as minor components. In Sweden, Tantalum was discovered in 1802 by Anders Ekeberg.

The electronic configuration of ta element is [Xe]4f145d36s2

The atomic mass is 180.948 g mol-1

In this article, we will study ta elements and Tantalum uses in detail.


Physical Properties of Tantalum

  • Tantalum belongs to group 5 and period 6. Tantalum is a d block element. It is solid at 20C.

Melting Point - 3017°C, 5463°F, 3290 K

Boiling Point - 5455°C, 9851°F, 5728 K

Density - 16.4

Relative Atomic Mass - 180.948

  • Tantalum is dark, dense, ductile, very hard,  and is a good conductor of heat and electricity.  

  • The metal is renowned for its resistance to acid corrosion; in fact, at temperatures below 150 °C, tantalum is almost entirely resistant to attacks by aqua regia that are typically violent. 

  • Hydrofluoric acid or acidic solutions containing ion and sulfur trioxide fluoride, as well as a potassium hydroxide solution, may be dissolved.

  • It generally appears in the +5 oxidation state. It is considered to be one of the inert chemical components found on the earth.


Tantalum Uses

Electronics:

As a metal powder, the primary application of tantalum is in the manufacture of electronic parts, especially capacitors and some high-power resistors. Tantalum electrolytic capacitors exploit the propensity of tantalum to form a surface layer of protective oxide, using tantalum powder, pressed into a pellet shape, as one "plate" of the condenser, the dielectric oxide, and the other "plate" as an electrolytic solution or conductive solid. Since the dielectric layer can be very thin (thinner than the equivalent layer in an aluminium electrolytic capacitor, for instance), a small volume of high capacitance can be achieved.


Alloys:

Tantalum is also used to manufacture a variety of alloys with a high melting point, strength, and ductility. It is also used in the manufacture of carbide tools for metalworking equipment and the manufacture of superalloys for components of jet engines, chemical process equipment, nuclear reactors, missile parts, heat exchangers, tanks, and vessels. Tantalum can be drawn into fine wires or filaments that are used for evaporating metals such as aluminium because of its ductility. Tantalum is commonly used in making surgical instruments and implants because it prevents attack by body fluids and is non-irritating.


Other Uses :

  1. In the development of vacuum furnace components, the high melting point and oxidation resistance contribute to the use of the metal. 

  2. Tantalum is highly inert and is thus formed into several parts that are resistant to corrosion, such as thermowell, valve bodies, and fasteners for tantalum. 

  3. The shaped charge and explosively designed penetrator liners were made from tantalum due to their high density. 

  4. Due to its elevated density and high melting point, tantalum significantly enhances the armour penetration capabilities of a shaped charge.

  5. Tantalum is also highly bio-inert and is used as a material for orthopaedic implants. For hip replacement implants, the high stiffness of tantalum makes it possible to use it as a highly porous foam or scaffold with lower stiffness to prevent stress shielding. These implants are considered suitable for patients undergoing MRI procedures because tantalum is a non-ferrous, non-magnetic metal. 

  6. For camera lenses, the oxide is used to produce special high refractive index glass.


Did You Know?

  • Tantalum causes many health-related issues when inhaled, swallowed, or when absorbed into the skin, such as skin and eye irritation. 

  • This metal is also toxic to the upper respiratory tract and also to mucous membranes. 

  • This part could cause considerable environmental harm, so appropriate steps need to be taken before it is disposed of.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is tantalum used for?

In a variety of alloys, tantalum is used to add high strength, ductility, and a high melting point. It's used as a filament for evaporating metals such as aluminium when drawn into a fine wire. About half of the use of tantalum is for electrolytic capacitors and components of the vacuum furnace.

2. Is tantalum more strong than tungsten?

Tantalum is highly resistant to scratches and breakage and is extremely durable. Tantalum is therefore resistant to corrosion, and only if exposed to hydrofluoric acid it can corrode. Unlike metals, such as tungsten, it is also shatterproof. This makes it great for individuals who lead active lives with busy hands.

3. Is tantalum poisonous?

Cases of poisoning due to exposure have not been reported, but tantalum is moderately toxic, and high amounts of fumes or dust may be released into the air if the processing requires cutting, melting, or grinding.

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