Periodic Table -> Tantalum
Tantalum DetailsTantalum Symbol:
TaTantalum Atomic Number:
73Tantalum Atomic Weight:
180.948What is Tantalum?
(atomic number 73, symbol Ta) is a hard, heavy metal that is grayish silver in color. The element was discovered by the Swedish chemist Anders Ekeberg in 1802 while Christian Blomstrand proved that niobium and tantalum are different elements in 1864.
Properties, Isotopes, and Occurrence
This element is a transition metal with a body-centered cubic structure. It has good electrical and heat conductivity and is hard, ductile, and dense. It has a boiling point of 6,000 C (10,832 F) and a melting point of 2,850 C (5,162 F). Its melting point is high but lower than that of carbon, osmium, rhenium, and tungsten. Tantalum is made of two isotopes – Ta-181 and Ta-180m. The half life of Ta-180 is just 8 hours. It forms carbides, fluorides, and oxides, including tantalum carbide, pentachloride, and pentoxide as well as lanthanum tantalate, lithium tantalate, and others. Other compounds include tantalum sulfide, silicide, nitride, carbide, etc. Common oxidation states are -1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. A number of minerals contain tantalum, including polycrase, euxenite, wodginite, microlite, and tantalite. The element is usually obtained from tantalite. Tantalite ores contain minerals and metals such as samarskite, niobium, manganese, and iron. Pyrochlore ores are another source of niobium and tantalum and are found in Canada, Portugal, Brazil, Congo, and other countries. Tantalum deposits are found in Wodgina and the Greenbushes in Australia. Both sites were operated by Global Advanced Metals which focuses on the production, extraction, and development of tantalum metals. The Wodgina mine was closed in 2012. Small amounts are also produced in Canada and Brazil.
Tantalum is used to manufacture surgical implants, capacitors, aircraft engines, and alloys. It is used to produce high-temperature devices because of its high melting point. The element also has application in the chemical industry because of its good corrosion resistance. It is used to manufacture refractive index glass, electron tubes, and alloys for missiles, nuclear reactors,
chemical equipment, and jet engines. However, the element is rarely added to alloys because it makes some metals more brittle. Tantalum is used to manufacture tubes because it forms oxides and nitrides that create vacuum. In addition, it is used to manufacture special optical glasses, non-ferrous alloys for aerospace and nuclear applications, metallurgical and chemical processing equipment, high-voltage surge arrest?rs, and more. It is also used to make circuitry for devices and computers, electrolytic capacitors, and tantalum compounds and alloys. Glass-line equipment is also manufactured. Its compounds are used to produce clips, mesh, surgical equipment, and machineries.
High concentrations of tantalum can contribute to environmental pollution. Small amounts have been found in plants. Exposure by skin contact, ingestion, and inhalation may cause respiratory problems and skin and eye irritation. Health hazards and dangers include dangers of explosion, inhalation, and exposure. Tantalum pentoxide is a colorless solid that reacts with oxidizers and can cause explosions and fire. Cases of poisoning due to exposure have not been reported, but tantalum is moderately toxic, and if processing involves cutting, melting, or grinding, high concentrations of fumes or dust may be released into the air. Workers who are exposed to tantalum must meet respiratory, skin protection, and eye protection requirements, as well as ventilation requirements. They must wear respirators, protective gloves, safety glasses, and other protective equipment. Depending on the facility and production processes, air samples may be taken frequently or at regular intervals. While tantalum is stable, it reacts violently with different compounds and substances, including halocarbons, halogens, copper(II) oxide, and bromine monofluoride. Under normal circumstances, the metal poses no environmental or health hazards. Dust and powder, however, are harmful and contribute to air and water pollution. Releases, spills, and emissions must be contained and controlled. There are different control methods, for example, exhaust ventilation and dilution ventilation. Ignition sources are removed in areas where metallic tantalum is processed.
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