Tantalum

1802 Tantalum

The book of science

Tom Sharp

UppsalaAnders Gustaf Ekeberg elements Tantalum

Tantalum

The year after Charles Hatchett discovered niobium, Anders Gustaf Ekeberg discovered tantalum in tapiolite from Finland. Identification of tantalum was swept up in the same confusion because niobium and tantalum are chemically similar and occur in the same minerals—columbite, tanpiolite, and tantalite —even though tantalum is twice as dense and heavy as niobium.

Atomic number 73

Contained in some alloys and superalloys, tantalum is ductile and has a high melting point. Contained in some capacitors and resistors, tantalum forms an oxide surface layer. Contained in some orthopedic implants tantalum is bioinert and non-magnetic.

Rare stuff

Expensive watches and bullets for penetrating armor— everyone wants the power and ultra quality of a rare movement in a rare tantalum case and so may overlook hidden costs.

The Congo has the resource curse; continued dependence on niobium and tantalum by wealthy nations perpetuates violence and corruption in poor nations.

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