Tantalum is a chemical element in the Periodic Table marked with the atomic number of 73 and with the chemical symbol Ta. This chemical element belongs to period 5 elements and the Transition Metals category. Similar to the rest of the Transition Metal elements Tantalum possesses various metallic properties. In the Periodic Table Tantalum is preceded by Hafnium and is followed by Tungsten.
Tantalum is quite similar to another Transition Metal – Niobium. They exist together in nature in a variety of minerals, including columbite, tantalite, and samarskite. Tantalum is quite rare, even though it is largely used in a number of commercial applications mostly in electronics, metallurgy and optics, as well as for laboratory equipment. It is highly valued for its strength and ductility, as well as its noteworthy resistance to corrosion. Due to its rarity and vast consumption is has been estimated that the Earth’s Tantalum reserves will be thoroughly used in less than 50 years from now. Nowadays the primary Tantalum mining takes place in Australia.
Physical Characteristics of Tantalum
In terms of physical characteristics Tantalum shows various metallic properties with the rest of the Transition Metals in the Periodic Table. It is a dark metallic element with a greyish blue finish. Tantalum is noteworthy hard, but ductile, and extremely resistant to corrosion. It is also highly conductive of electricity and heat. It is among the chemical elements with the highest melting and boiling points – at 3290 K and 5463 K in their respective order. Tantalum crystalizes in two phases. The alpha phase has a body-centered cubic structure and is relatively soft and ductile. The beta phase has a tetragonal structure and is hard and brittle. Tantalum’s density is quite high and it’s resistant to most acids.
Chemical Properties of Tantalum
Atomic Number – 73
Group – 5
Period – 6
Block – d
Electronic Configuration – 4f14 5d3 6s2
Relative Atomic Mass – 180.94788 (180.94788 g/mol)
Molecular Weight – 180.94788
Electronegativity – 1.5
Density (G CM-3) – 16.69 g/cm3 at room temperature; 15 g/cm3 in liquid state
Melting Point – 3290 K; 3017 °C; 5463 °F
Boiling Point – 5731 K; 5458 °C; 9856 °F
Atomic Radius – 146 pm
Isotopes – 2
Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 18, 32, 11, 2
Discovery of Tantalum
The element Tantalum was discovered back in 1802 by a Swedish chemist, named Anders Gustav Ekeberg. In 1844 the German mineralogist and chemist Heinrich Rose officially recognized Tantalum as a distinct element after various other scientists tried to prove or disprove the theory that Niobium (then known as Columbium) and Tantalum were the same element. Ekeberg was the one, who named the element, after the Greek mythological villain Tantalus.
The very first pure production of Tantalum was carried out in 1903 by the German chemist Werner von Bolton.
Recognized by: Anders Gustav Ekeberg (1802)
Known and discovered by: Anders Gustav Ekeberg (1802)
Named by: Anders Gustav Ekeberg (1802)
Uses and role of Tantalum
Tantalum is a really rare chemical element, but it has various commercial uses and applications. It does not, however, has any known biological functions for human beings or other living organisms on Earth. This Transition Metal plays many important roles for metallurgy, electronics, optics and science.
Tantalum is a main component in various types of laboratory equipment. It is also used in the manufacturing of camera lenses, vacuum furnaces, thermowells, watches, pipes, radio transmitters, phones, and computers. Tantalum is also used to form a number of alloys and super-alloys. The Kazakhstani bimetallic coins are also made out of Tantalum and Silver.
Tantalum on Earth
Tantalum is an extremely rare chemical element on Earth. It never exists as a free element in nature and is often found as a mixture of Niobium and other elements in various minerals, including samarskite, microlite, euxenite, fergusonite, the most important of which is tantalite. Nowadays Australia is the primary source and manufacturer of Tantalum. Due to its many commercial applications and its rarity, it has been estimated that the Earth’s Tantalum reserves will be thoroughly used in less than 50 years from now.
It has been discovered that Tantalum is among the biocompatible chemical elements. As such, it can be used in biomedicine for various body implants or coatings. However, the legal limit dosage is quite low and Tantalum poses great danger to health.