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The Element Tantalum

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73

Ta

Tantalum

180.94788

Atomic Number: 73

Atomic Weight: 180.94788

Melting Point: 3290 K (3017°C or 5463°F)

Boiling Point: 5731 K (5458°C or 9856°F)

Density: 16.4 grams per cubic centimeter

Phase at Room Temperature: Solid

Element Classification: Metal

Period Number: 6    Group Number: 5    Group Name: none

What's in a name? Named for the Greek mythological figure Tantalus.

Say what? Tantalum is pronounced as TAN-te-lem.

History and Uses:

Tantalum was discovered by Anders Gustaf Ekenberg, a Swedish chemist, in 1802 in minerals obtained from Ytterby, Sweden. Many scientists believed that he had only discovered an allotrope of niobium, an element that is chemically similar to tantalum. The issue was finally settled in 1866 when, Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac, a Swiss chemist, proved that tantalum and niobium were two distinct elements. The first relatively pure samples of tantalum were first produced in 1907. Today, tantalum is primarily obtained from the minerals columbite ((Fe, Mn, Mg)(Nb, Ta)2O6), tantalite ((Fe, Mn)(Ta, Nb)2O6) and euxenite ((Y, Ca, Er, La, Ce, U, Th)(Nb, Ta, Ti)2O6).

Tantalum is a strong, ductile metal that is nearly immune to chemical attack at room temperatures. It can be drawn into a fine wire that is used to evaporate metals, such as aluminum. It has a high melting point and is frequently used as a substitute for platinum, which is more expensive. Tantalum is used to make components for chemical plants, nuclear power plants, airplanes and missiles. Tantalum does not react with bodily fluids and is used to make surgical equipment. Tantalum also does not irritate the body and is used to make surgical sutures as well as implants, such as artificial joints and cranial plates. Tantalum is alloyed with steel to increase steel's ductility, strength and melting point.

Tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5), one of tantalum's compounds, is a dielectric material and is used to make capacitors. It is also used to make a glass with a high index of refraction that is used in camera lenses. A composite consisting of tantalum carbide (TaC) and graphite is one of the hardest materials known and is used on the cutting edges of high-speed machine tools.

Estimated Crustal Abundance: 2.0 milligrams per kilogram

Estimated Oceanic Abundance: 2×10-6 milligrams per liter

Number of Stable Isotopes: 1   (View all isotope data)

Ionization Energy: 7.89 eV

Oxidation States: +5

Electron Shell Configuration:

1s2

2s2   2p6

3s2   3p6   3d10

4s2   4p6   4d10   4f14

5s2   5p6   5d3

6s2