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Tantalum has unique mechanical, electrical and chemical properties which make it indispensable in many industrial applications. Tantalum is easy to machine and is highly conductive of heat and electricity. In addition to this it also has nearly zero electric resistance at low temperatures, high corrosion resistance, shape memory properties and high capacitance i.e. ability to store electric change.
More about Tantalum
Tantalum is a chemical element with the symbol Ta and atomic number 73. Previously known as tantalium, the name comes from Tantalus, a character from Greek mythology. Tantalum is a rare, hard, blue-grey, lustrous transition metal that is highly corrosion resistant. It is part of the refractory metals group, which are widely used as minor components in alloys. The chemical inertness of tantalum makes it a valuable substance for laboratory equipment and a substitute for platinum, but its main use today is in tantalum capacitors in electronic equipment such as mobile phones, DVD players, video game systems and computers. Tantalum, always together with the chemically similar niobium, occurs in the minerals tantalite, columbite and coltan (a mix of columbite and tantalite).
Tantalum is dark (blue-grey), dense, ductile, very hard, easily fabricated, and highly conductive of heat and electricity. The metal is renowned for its resistance to corrosion by acids; in fact, at temperatures below 150 °C tantalum is almost completely immune to attack by the normally aggressive aqua regia. It can be dissolved with hydrofluoric acid or acidic solutions containing the fluoride ion and sulphur trioxide, as well as with a solution of potassium hydroxide. Tantalum's high melting point of 3017 °C (boiling point 5458 °C) is exceeded only by tungsten, rhenium andosmium for metals, and carbon.
Tantalum exists in two crystalline phases, alpha and beta. The alpha phase is relatively ductile and soft; it has body-centered cubic structure (space group Im3m, lattice constant a = 0.33058 nm), Knoop hardness 200–400 HN and electrical resistivity 15–60 µΩּcm. The beta phase is hard and brittle; its crystal symmetry is tetragonal (space group P42/mnm, a = 1.0194 nm, c = 0.5313 nm), Knoop hardness is 1000–1300 HN and electrical resistivity is relatively high at 170–210 µΩּcm. The beta phase is metastable and converts to the alpha phase upon heating to 750–775 °C. Bulk tantalum is almost entirely alpha phase, and the beta phase usually exists as thin films obtained by magnetron sputtering, chemical vapor deposition or electrochemical deposition from an eutectic molten salt solution.
Tantalum forms oxides with the oxidation states +5 (Ta2O5) and +4 (TaO2). The most stable oxidation state is +5, tantalum pentoxide. Tantalum pentoxide is the starting material for several tantalum compounds. The compounds are created by dissolving the pentoxide in basichydroxide solutions or by melting it in another metal oxide. Such examples are lithium tantalate (LiTaO3) and lanthanum tantalate (LaTaO4). In the lithium tantalate, the tantalate ion TaO−3 does not occur; instead, this part of the formula represents linkage of TaO7−6 octahedra to form a three-dimensional perovskite framework; while the lanthanum tantalate contains lone TaO3−4 tetrahedral groups.
The fluorides of tantalum can be used for its separation from niobium. Tantalum forms halogen compounds in the oxidation states of +5, +4, and +3 of the type TaX5, TaX4, and TaX3, although multi core complexes and substoichiometric compounds are also known. Tantalum pentafluoride (TaF5) is a white solid with a melting point of 97.0 °C and tantalum pentachloride (TaCl5) is a white solid with a melting point of 247.4 °C. Tantalum pentachloride is hydrolyzed by water and reacts with additional tantalum at elevated temperatures by forming the black and highlyhygroscopic tantalum tetrachloride (TaCl4). While the trihalogen compounds can be obtained by reduction of the pentahalogenes with hydrogen, the dihalogen compounds do not exist. A tantalum-tellurium alloy forms quasicrystals. Tantalum compounds with oxidation states as low as −1 have been reported in 2008.
Similar to most other refractory metals, the hardest known compounds of tantalum are its stable nitrides and carbides. Tantalum carbide (TaC) like the more commonly used tungsten carbide, is a very hard ceramic that is used in cutting tools. Tantalum(III) nitride is used as a thin film insulator in some microelectronic fabrication processes. Chemists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States have developed a tantalum carbide-graphite composite material that is one of the hardest materials ever synthesized. Korean researchers have developed an amorphous tantalum-tungsten-copper alloy that is more flexible and two to three times stronger than commonly used steel alloys. There are two tantalum aluminides, TaAl3 and Ta3Al. These are stable, refractory, and reflective, and they have been proposed] as coatings for use in infrared wave mirrors.