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Tantalum (Ta): Transition Metals

What is Tantalum?

Tantalum is a transition metal in Group 5 (VB) of the periodic table. The periodic table is a chart that shows how chemical elements are related to one another. Tantalum is one of the most inert metals known. An inert material is one that does not react with most other chemicals. Most metals, for example, dissolve in acids, but tantalum is not affected by acids or other strong chemicals. For this reason, tantalum is used to make chemical, medical, and dental equipment.  Tantalum is one of the most unreactive metals.   (Continue reading from Chemistry Explained)

The History

Tantalum was reported as a new metal in 1802 by Anders Gustav Ekeberg at Uppsala University, Sweden. However, when William Wollaston analysed the minerals from which it had been extracted he declared it was identical to niobium which has been discovered the year previously. It was as a result of their similarity that there was confusion regarding their identification. These two elements often occur together and, being chemically very similar, were difficult to separate by the methods available at the time of the discovery.

It was not until 1846 that Heinrich Rose separated tantalum and niobium and proved conclusively that they were different elements, and yet his sample of tantalum was still somewhat impure, and it was not until 1903 that pure tantalum was produced by Werner von Bolton. (Continue reading from Royal Society of Chemistry)

Tantalum Facts

Tantalum is a hard, grey, ductile metal. In its pure form, it can be drawn into a fine wire. Tantalum is nearly immune to chemical attacks at temperatures below 302 F (150 C). Tantalum oxide films are very stable and have good rectifying as well as dielectric properties. It has a melting point only exceeded by two other elements and becomes much more reactive at high temperatures. 

Tantalum is used in a variety of alloys to add high strength, ductility and a high melting point. When drawn into a fine wire, it’s used as a filament for evaporating metals such as aluminum. More than half of tantalum’s use is for electrolytic capacitors and vacuum furnace parts. The element is also used to make chemical process equipment, nuclear reactors, aircraft and missile parts.   (Continue reading from Live Science)

Learn More...

PubChem Tantalum (National Library of Medicine)

Tantalum (Los Alamos National Lavatory)

Tantalizing Tantalum (Nature Chemistry)

It's Elemental Tantalum (JLab Science Education)

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