Tantalum smelting is one of the many industrial forms in which tantalum (Ta), a dark blue-grey metal naturally found in the earth’s crust, can occur. The base metal is very heavy, ductile, hard and highly resistant to corrosion. Therefore, tantalum and tantalum mine (Ta mine) are used in many important scenarios, including high quality industrial alloys, mainly due to the metal’s characteristic strength, ductility and high melting point.
Today, tantalum is needed for a number of industrial processes. That’s where Stanford Advanced Materials (SAM), a chemical supplier based in Lake Forest, California, comes in. SAM has been in the chemical industry for more than 20 years, supplying rare earths and high-tech materials like tantalum to its customers.
But before we get into the unique properties and applications of tantalum, let’s take a closer look at tantalum as an element, its origins, its physical and chemical properties, and its general applications.
Discovery and occurrence: tantalum was discovered in 1802 by Anders G. Ekeberg in Uppsala, Sweden. The metals tantalum and niobium were originally thought to be identical elements until Rowe and Swiss chemist Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac showed in 1844 that they are different materials.
In its pure form, tantalum is a shiny, silvery, heavy, dense, malleable and ductile metal. It is excellent metallic properties that make tantalum a very valuable material for many important applications. The base metal is named after the Greek mythological figure tantalum.
Occurrence and mining: Tantalum is found in small quantities in ores, usually together with niobium as columbite or tantalite. In nature, the metal is found in the mineral columbite-tantalite.
Separation of tantalum and niobium can occur by electrolysis or by reduction of potassium fluorotantalate with sodium. A common method is conversion to the oxide form. The pure metal is then produced by electrolysis of the fluorine complex K2TaF7.
Chemical properties: Tantalum is extremely corrosion resistant due to the oxide layer on its surface. It is also resistant to acids with the exception of hydrofluoric acid (HF), which dissolves it. It reacts only at high temperatures with molten alkalis and some other non-metals. At temperatures below 150 °C, tantalum is chemically inert, i.e. impervious to all chemical reactions.
Uses and applications of tantalum
Tantalum is useful in the following areas.
Applications at high temperatures: Tantalum is used in the manufacture of aircraft engines and other important parts of certain technical machines.
Electrical appliances: the metal is also used in the manufacture of electronic components such as capacitors, rectifiers and filaments for lamps. It can form extremely thin, protective oxide layers, which are used to make high-quality capacitors.
In surgical implants: because it is not attacked by body fluids and is not toxic to the biological system.
Handling corrosive chemicals: tantalum is rarely used as an alloying agent because it has a tendency to make metals brittle. Tantalum is highly corrosion resistant, which is the main reason for its widespread use in the chemical industry. An excellent example of its use is in heat exchangers in boilers where strong acids are evaporated. Its ability to form stable, protective oxide layers also makes it an excellent material for laboratory crucibles (see below).
Tantalum is also used in vacuum systems because of its high absorption rate of exhaust gases.
Tantalum crucibles and their applications
Tantalum crucible is important laboratory equipment made from tantalum. The metal’s strength, ductility and ability to withstand high temperatures and corrosion are factors that explain why it is used in this role. Tantalum needles are generally available in a variety of dimensions, thicknesses and shapes.
The most common applications for tantalum dowels are listed below.
Tantalum crucibles are used in laboratory equipment.
They are suitable as a substitute for platinum.
Because of its strength and corrosion resistance, tantalum is suitable for the production of superalloys and electron beam melting.
Tantalum is also used in metallurgical processes and in the machine, glass and ceramics industries.
Stanford Advanced Materials, a trusted supplier of tantalum and a leading supplier of tantalum alloys, has a longstanding commitment to