Tantalum is a chemical element with symbol Ta and atomic number 73. Previously known as tantalium, its name comes from Tantalus, a villain from Greek mythology.[5] Tantalum is a rare, hard, blue-gray, 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. 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 mineral groups tantalite, columbite and coltan (a mix of columbite and tantalite, though not recognised as a separate mineral species). [6] Tantalum is considered a technology-critical element.

Tantalum,  73Ta
Tantalum single crystal and 1cm3 cube
Pronunciation/ˈtæntələm/ (TAN-təl-əm)
Appearancegray blue
Standard atomic weight Ar, std(Ta)180.94788(2)[1]
Tantalum in the periodic table
Hydrogen Helium
Lithium Beryllium Boron Carbon Nitrogen Oxygen Fluorine Neon
Sodium Magnesium Aluminium Silicon Phosphorus Sulfur Chlorine Argon
Potassium Calcium Scandium Titanium Vanadium Chromium Manganese Iron Cobalt Nickel Copper Zinc Gallium Germanium Arsenic Selenium Bromine Krypton
Rubidium Strontium Yttrium Zirconium Niobium Molybdenum Technetium Ruthenium Rhodium Palladium Silver Cadmium Indium Tin Antimony Tellurium Iodine Xenon
Caesium Barium Lanthanum Cerium Praseodymium Neodymium Promethium Samarium Europium Gadolinium Terbium Dysprosium Holmium Erbium Thulium Ytterbium Lutetium Hafnium Tantalum Tungsten Rhenium Osmium Iridium Platinum Gold Mercury (element) Thallium Lead Bismuth Polonium Astatine Radon
Francium Radium Actinium Thorium Protactinium Uranium Neptunium Plutonium Americium Curium Berkelium Californium Einsteinium Fermium Mendelevium Nobelium Lawrencium Rutherfordium Dubnium Seaborgium Bohrium Hassium Meitnerium Darmstadtium Roentgenium Copernicium Nihonium Flerovium Moscovium Livermorium Tennessine Oganesson


Atomic number (Z)73
Groupgroup 5
Periodperiod 6
Element category  transition metal
Electron configuration[Xe] 4f14 5d3 6s2
Electrons per shell
2, 8, 18, 32, 11, 2
Physical properties
Phase at STPsolid
Melting point3290 K ​(3017 °C, ​5463 °F)
Boiling point5731 K ​(5458 °C, ​9856 °F)
Density (near r.t.)16.69 g/cm3
when liquid (at m.p.)15 g/cm3
Heat of fusion36.57 kJ/mol
Heat of vaporization753 kJ/mol
Molar heat capacity25.36 J/(mol·K)
Vapor pressure
P (Pa) 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T (K) 3297 3597 3957 4395 4939 5634
Atomic properties
Oxidation states−3, −1, +1, +2, +3, +4, +5 (a mildly acidic oxide)
ElectronegativityPauling scale: 1.5
Ionization energies
  • 1st: 761 kJ/mol
  • 2nd: 1500 kJ/mol
Atomic radiusempirical: 146 pm
Covalent radius170±8 pm
Color lines in a spectral range
Spectral lines of tantalum
Other properties
Natural occurrenceprimordial
Crystal structurebody-centered cubic (bcc)[2]
Body-centered cubic crystal structure for tantalum

Crystal structuretetragonal[2]
Tetragonal crystal structure for tantalum

Speed of sound thin rod3400 m/s (at 20 °C)
Thermal expansion6.3 µm/(m·K) (at 25 °C)
Thermal conductivity57.5 W/(m·K)
Electrical resistivity131 nΩ·m (at 20 °C)
Magnetic orderingparamagnetic[3]
Magnetic susceptibility+154.0·10−6 cm3/mol (293 K)[4]
Young's modulus186 GPa
Shear modulus69 GPa
Bulk modulus200 GPa
Poisson ratio0.34
Mohs hardness6.5
Vickers hardness870–1200 MPa
Brinell hardness440–3430 MPa
CAS Number7440-25-7
DiscoveryAnders Gustaf Ekeberg (1802)
Recognized as a distinct element byHeinrich Rose (1844)
Main isotopes of tantalum
Iso­tope Abun­dance Half-life (t1/2) Decay mode Pro­duct
177Ta syn 56.56 h ε 177Hf
178Ta syn 2.36 h ε 178Hf
179Ta syn 1.82 y ε 179Hf
180Ta syn 8.125 h ε 180Hf
β 180W
180mTa 0.012% stable
181Ta 99.988% stable
182Ta syn 114.43 d β 182W
183Ta syn 5.1 d β 183W


Tantalum was discovered in Sweden in 1802 by Anders Ekeberg, in two mineral samples – one from Sweden and the other from Finland.[7][8] One year earlier, Charles Hatchett had discovered columbium (now niobium),[9] and in 1809 the English chemist William Hyde Wollaston compared its oxide, columbite with a density of 5.918 g/cm3, to that of tantalum, tantalite with a density of 7.935 g/cm3. He concluded that the two oxides, despite their difference in measured density, were identical and kept the name tantalum.[10] After Friedrich Wöhler confirmed these results, it was thought that columbium and tantalum were the same element. This conclusion was disputed in 1846 by the German chemist Heinrich Rose, who argued that there were two additional elements in the tantalite sample, and he named them after the children of Tantalus: niobium (from Niobe, the goddess of tears), and pelopium (from Pelops).[11][12] The supposed element "pelopium" was later identified as a mixture of tantalum and niobium, and it was found that the niobium was identical to the columbium already discovered in 1801 by Hatchett.

The differences between tantalum and niobium were demonstrated unequivocally in 1864 by Christian Wilhelm Blomstrand,[13] and Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville, as well as by Louis J. Troost, who determined the empirical formulas of some of their compounds in 1865.[13][14] Further confirmation came from the Swiss chemist Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac,[15] in 1866, who proved that there were only two elements. These discoveries did not stop scientists from publishing articles about the so-called ilmenium until 1871.[16] De Marignac was the first to produce the metallic form of tantalum in 1864, when he reduced tantalum chloride by heating it in an atmosphere of hydrogen.[17] Early investigators had only been able to produce impure tantalum, and the first relatively pure ductile metal was produced by Werner von Bolton in Charlottenburg in 1903. Wires made with metallic tantalum were used for light bulb filaments until tungsten replaced it in widespread use.[18]

The name tantalum was derived from the name of the mythological Tantalus, the father of Niobe in Greek mythology. In the story, he had been punished after death by being condemned to stand knee-deep in water with perfect fruit growing above his head, both of which eternally tantalized him. (If he bent to drink the water, it drained below the level he could reach, and if he reached for the fruit, the branches moved out of his grasp.)[19] Anders Ekeberg wrote "This metal I call tantalum ... partly in allusion to its incapacity, when immersed in acid, to absorb any and be saturated."[20]

For decades, the commercial technology for separating tantalum from niobium involved the fractional crystallization of potassium heptafluorotantalate away from potassium oxypentafluoroniobate monohydrate, a process that was discovered by Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac in 1866. This method has been supplanted by solvent extraction from fluoride-containing solutions of tantalum.[14]


Physical properties

Tantalum is dark (blue-gray),[21] 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 sulfur trioxide, as well as with a solution of potassium hydroxide. Tantalum's high melting point of 3017 °C (boiling point 5458 °C) is exceeded among the elements only by tungsten, rhenium and osmium 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 µΩ⋅cm. 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 µΩ⋅cm. 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[22] obtained by magnetron sputtering, chemical vapor deposition or electrochemical deposition from an eutectic molten salt solution.[23]


Natural tantalum consists of two isotopes: 180mTa (0.012%) and 181Ta (99.988%). 181Ta is a stable isotope. 180mTa (m denotes a metastable state) is predicted to decay in three ways: isomeric transition to the ground state of 180Ta, beta decay to 180W, or electron capture to 180Hf. However, radioactivity of this nuclear isomer has never been observed, and only a lower limit on its half-life of 2.0 × 1016 years has been set.[24] The ground state of 180Ta has a half-life of only 8 hours. 180mTa is the only naturally occurring nuclear isomer (excluding radiogenic and cosmogenic short-lived nuclides). It is also the rarest isotope in the Universe, taking into account the elemental abundance of tantalum and isotopic abundance of 180mTa in the natural mixture of isotopes (and again excluding radiogenic and cosmogenic short-lived nuclides).[25]

Tantalum has been examined theoretically as a "salting" material for nuclear weapons (cobalt is the better-known hypothetical salting material). An external shell of 181Ta would be irradiated by the intensive high-energy neutron flux from a hypothetical exploding nuclear weapon. This would transmute the tantalum into the radioactive isotope 182Ta, which has a half-life of 114.4 days and produces gamma rays with approximately 1.12 million electron-volts (MeV) of energy apiece, which would significantly increase the radioactivity of the nuclear fallout from the explosion for several months. Such "salted" weapons have never been built or tested, as far as is publicly known, and certainly never used as weapons.[26]

Tantalum can be used as a target material for accelerated proton beams for the production of various short-lived isotopes including 8Li, 80Rb, and 160Yb.[27]

Chemical compounds

Tantalum forms compounds in oxidation states -III to +V. Most commonly encountered are oxides of Ta(V), which includes all minerals. The chemical properties of Ta and Nb are very similar. In aqueous media, Ta only exhibit the +V oxidation state. Like niobium, tantalum is barely soluble in dilute solutions of hydrochloric, sulfuric, nitric and phosphoric acids due to the precipitation of hydrous Ta(V) oxide.[28] In basic media, Ta can be solubilized due to the formation of polyoxotantalate species.[29]

Oxides, nitrides, carbides, sulfides

Tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5) is the most important compound from the perspective of applications. Oxides of tantalum in lower oxidation states are numerous, including many defect structures, are lightly studied or poorly characterized.[30]

Tantalates, compounds containing [TaO4]3− or [TaO3] are numerous. Lithium tantalate (LiTaO3) adopts a perovskite structure. Lanthanum tantalate (LaTaO4) contains isolated TaO3−

As in the cases of other refractory metals, the hardest known compounds of tantalum are nitrides and carbides. Tantalum carbide, TaC, like the more commonly used tungsten carbide, is a hard ceramic that is used in cutting tools. Tantalum(III) nitride is used as a thin film insulator in some microelectronic fabrication processes.[32]

The best studied chalcogenide is TaS2, a layered semiconductor, as seen for other transition metal dichalcogenides. A tantalum-tellurium alloy forms quasicrystals.[31]


Tantalum halides span the oxidation states of +5, +4, and +3. Tantalum pentafluoride (TaF5) is a white solid with a melting point of 97.0 °C. The anion [TaF7]2- is used for its separation from niobium.[33] The chloride TaCl
, which exists as a dimer, is the main reagent in synthesis of new Ta compounds. It hydrolyzes readily to an oxychloride. The lower halides TaX
and TaX
, feature Ta-Ta bonds.[31][28][31]

Organotantalum compounds

Organotantalum compounds include pentamethyltantalum, mixed alkyltantalum chlorides, alkyltantalum hydrides, alkylidene complexes as well as cyclopentadienyl derivatives of the same.[34][35] Diverse salts and substituted derivatives are known for the hexacarbonyl [Ta(CO)6] and related isocyanides.



Tantalite, Pilbara district, Australia

Tantalum is estimated to make up about 1 ppm[36] or 2 ppm[28] of the Earth's crust by weight. There are many species of tantalum minerals, only some of which are so far being used by industry as raw materials: tantalite (a series consisting of tantalite-(Fe), tantalite-(Mn) and tantalite-(Mg)) microlite (now a group name), wodginite, euxenite (actually euxenite-(Y)), and polycrase (actually polycrase-(Y)).[6] Tantalite (Fe, Mn)Ta2O6 is the most important mineral for tantalum extraction. Tantalite has the same mineral structure as columbite (Fe, Mn) (Ta, Nb)2O6; when there is more tantalum than niobium it is called tantalite and when there is more niobium than tantalum is it called columbite (or niobite). The high density of tantalite and other tantalum containing minerals makes the use of gravitational separation the best method. Other minerals include samarskite and fergusonite.

World Tantalum Production 2015
Tantalum producers in 2015 with Rwanda being the main producer

The primary mining of tantalum is in Australia, where the largest producer, Global Advanced Metals, formerly known as Talison Minerals, operates two mines in Western Australia, Greenbushes in the Southwest and Wodgina in the Pilbara region. The Wodgina mine was reopened in January 2011 after mining at the site was suspended in late-2008 due to the global financial crisis.[37] Less than a year after it reopened, Global Advanced Metals announced that due to again "... softening tantalum demand ...", and other factors, tantalum mining operations were to cease at the end of February 2012.[38] Wodgina produces a primary tantalum concentrate which is further upgraded at the Greenbushes operation before being sold to customers.[39] Whereas the large-scale producers of niobium are in Brazil and Canada, the ore there also yields a small percentage of tantalum. Some other countries such as China, Ethiopia, and Mozambique mine ores with a higher percentage of tantalum, and they produce a significant percentage of the world's output of it. Tantalum is also produced in Thailand and Malaysia as a by-product of the tin mining there. During gravitational separation of the ores from placer deposits, not only is cassiterite (SnO2) found, but a small percentage of tantalite also included. The slag from the tin smelters then contains economically useful amounts of tantalum, which is leached from the slag.[14][40]

World Tantalum Production 2006
Tantalum producers in 2006 with Australia being the main producer

World tantalum mine production has undergone an important geographic shift since the start of the 21st century when production was predominantly from Australia and Brazil. Beginning in 2007 and through 2014, the major sources of tantalum production from mines dramatically shifted to the DRC, Rwanda, and some other African countries.[41] Future sources of supply of tantalum, in order of estimated size, are being explored in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Greenland, China, Mozambique, Canada, Australia, the United States, Finland, and Brazil.[42][43]

It is estimated that there are less than 50 years left of tantalum resources, based on extraction at current rates, demonstrating the need for increased recycling.[44]

Status as a conflict resource

Tantalum is considered a conflict resource. Coltan, the industrial name for a columbitetantalite mineral from which niobium and tantalum are extracted,[45] can also be found in Central Africa, which is why tantalum is being linked to warfare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). According to an October 23, 2003 United Nations report,[46] the smuggling and exportation of coltan has helped fuel the war in the Congo, a crisis that has resulted in approximately 5.4 million deaths since 1998[47] – making it the world’s deadliest documented conflict since World War II. Ethical questions have been raised about responsible corporate behavior, human rights, and endangering wildlife, due to the exploitation of resources such as coltan in the armed conflict regions of the Congo Basin.[48][49][50][51] However, although important for the local economy in Congo, the contribution of coltan mining in Congo to the world supply of tantalum is usually small. The United States Geological Survey reports in its yearbook that this region produced a little less than 1% of the world's tantalum output in 2002–2006, peaking at 10% in 2000 and 2008.[40]

The stated aim of the Solutions for Hope Tantalum Project is to "source conflict-free tantalum from the Democratic Republic of Congo"[52]

Production and fabrication

Tantalum world production
Time trend of tantalum production until 2012[53]

Several steps are involved in the extraction of tantalum from tantalite. First, the mineral is crushed and concentrated by gravity separation. This is generally carried out near the mine site.


The refining of tantalum from its ores is one of the more demanding separation processes in industrial metallurgy. The chief problem is that tantalum ores contain significant amounts of niobium, which has chemical properties almost identical to those of Ta. A large number of procedures have been developed to address this challenge.

In modern times, the separation is achieved by hydrometallurgy.[54] Extraction begins with leaching the ore with hydrofluoric acid together with sulfuric acid or hydrochloric acid. This step allows the tantalum and niobium to be separated from the various non-metallic impurities in the rock. Although Ta occurs as various minerals, it is conveniently represented as the pentoxide, since most oxides of tantalum(V) behave similarly under these conditions. A simplified equation for its extraction is thus:

Ta2O5 + 14 HF → 2 H2[TaF7] + 5 H2O

Completely analogous reactions occur for the niobium component, but the hexafluoride is typically predominant under the conditions of the extraction.

Nb2O5 + 12 HF → 2 H[NbF6] + 5 H2O

These equations are simplified: it is suspected that bisulfate (HSO4) and chloride compete as ligands for the Nb(V) and Ta(V) ions, when sulfuric and hydrochloric acids are used, respectively.[54] The tantalum and niobium fluoride complexes are then removed from the aqueous solution by liquid-liquid extraction into organic solvents, such as cyclohexanone, octanol, and methyl isobutyl ketone. This simple procedure allows the removal of most metal-containing impurities (e.g. iron, manganese, titanium, zirconium), which remain in the aqueous phase in the form of their fluorides and other complexes.

Separation of the tantalum from niobium is then achieved by lowering the ionic strength of the acid mixture, which causes the niobium to dissolve in the aqueous phase. It is proposed that oxyfluoride H2[NbOF5] is formed under these conditions. Subsequent to removal of the niobium, the solution of purified H2[TaF7] is neutralised with aqueous ammonia to precipitate hydrated tantalum oxide as a solid, which can be calcined to tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5).[55]

Instead of hydrolysis, the H2[TaF7] can be treated with potassium fluoride to produce potassium heptafluorotantalate:

H2[TaF7] + 2 KF → K2[TaF7] + 2 HF

Unlike H2[TaF7], the potassium salt is readily crystallized and handled as a solid.

K2[TaF7] can be converted to metallic tantalum by reduction with sodium, at approximately 800 °C in molten salt.[56]

K2[TaF7] + 5 Na → Ta + 5 NaF + 2 KF

In an older method, called the Marignac process, the mixture of H2[TaF7] and H2[NbOF5] was converted to a mixture of K2[TaF7] and K2[NbOF5], which was then be separated by fractional crystallization, exploiting their different water solubilities.


Tantalum can also be refined by electrolysis, using a modified version of the Hall–Héroult process. Instead of requiring the input oxide and output metal to be in liquid form, tantalum electrolysis operates on non-liquid powdered oxides. The initial discovery came in 1997 when Cambridge University researchers immersed small samples of certain oxides in baths of molten salt and reduced the oxide with electric current. The cathode uses powdered metal oxide. The anode is made of carbon. The molten salt at 1,000 °C (1,830 °F) is the electrolyte. The first refinery has enough capacity to supply 3–4% of annual global demand.[57]

Fabrication and metalworking

All welding of tantalum must be done in an inert atmosphere of argon or helium in order to shield it from contamination with atmospheric gases. Tantalum is not solderable. Grinding tantalum is difficult, especially so for annealed tantalum. In the annealed condition, tantalum is extremely ductile and can be readily formed as metal sheets.[58]



Tantalum electrolytic capacitor

The major use for tantalum, as the metal powder, is in the production of electronic components, mainly capacitors and some high-power resistors. Tantalum electrolytic capacitors exploit the tendency of tantalum to form a protective oxide surface layer, using tantalum powder, pressed into a pellet shape, as one "plate" of the capacitor, the oxide as the dielectric, and an electrolytic solution or conductive solid as the other "plate". Because the dielectric layer can be very thin (thinner than the similar layer in, for instance, an aluminium electrolytic capacitor), a high capacitance can be achieved in a small volume. Because of the size and weight advantages, tantalum capacitors are attractive for portable telephones, personal computers, automotive electronics and cameras.[59]


Tantalum is also used to produce a variety of alloys that have high melting points, strength, and ductility. Alloyed with other metals, it is also used in making carbide tools for metalworking equipment and in the production of superalloys for jet engine components, chemical process equipment, nuclear reactors, missile parts, heat exchangers, tanks, and vessels.[60][59][61] Because of its ductility, tantalum can be drawn into fine wires or filaments, which are used for evaporating metals such as aluminium. Since it resists attack by body fluids and is nonirritating, tantalum is widely used in making surgical instruments and implants. For example, porous tantalum coatings are used in the construction of orthopedic implants due to tantalum's ability to form a direct bond to hard tissue.[62]

Tantalum is inert against most acids except hydrofluoric acid and hot sulfuric acid, and hot alkaline solutions also cause tantalum to corrode. This property makes it a useful metal for chemical reaction vessels and pipes for corrosive liquids. Heat exchanging coils for the steam heating of hydrochloric acid are made from tantalum.[63] Tantalum was extensively used in the production of ultra high frequency electron tubes for radio transmitters. Tantalum is capable of capturing oxygen and nitrogen by forming nitrides and oxides and therefore helped to sustain the high vacuum needed for the tubes when used for internal parts such as grids and plates.[33][63]

Other uses

Bimetallic coins minted by the Bank of Kazakhstan with silver ring and tantalum center.

The high melting point and oxidation resistance lead to the use of the metal in the production of vacuum furnace parts. Tantalum is extremely inert and is therefore formed into a variety of corrosion resistant parts, such as thermowells, valve bodies, and tantalum fasteners. Due to its high density, shaped charge and explosively formed penetrator liners have been constructed from tantalum.[64] Tantalum greatly increases the armor penetration capabilities of a shaped charge due to its high density and high melting point.[65][66] It is also occasionally used in precious watches e.g. from Audemars Piguet, F.P. Journe, Hublot, Montblanc, Omega, and Panerai. Tantalum is also highly bioinert and is used as an orthopedic implant material.[67] The high stiffness of tantalum makes it necessary to use it as highly porous foam or scaffold with lower stiffness for hip replacement implants to avoid stress shielding.[68] Because tantalum is a non-ferrous, non-magnetic metal, these implants are considered to be acceptable for patients undergoing MRI procedures.[69] The oxide is used to make special high refractive index glass for camera lenses.[70]

Environmental issues

Tantalum receives far less attention in the environmental field than it does in other geosciences. Upper Crust Concentrations (UCC) and the Nb/Ta ratio in the upper crust and in minerals are available because these measurements are useful as a geochemical tool.[71] The latest values for UCC and the Nb/Ta(w/w) ratio in the upper crust stand at 0.92 ppm and 12.7 respectively.[72]

Little data is available on tantalum concentrations in the different environmental compartments, especially in natural waters where reliable estimates of ‘dissolved’ tantalum concentrations in seawater and freshwaters have not even been produced.[73] Some values on dissolved concentrations in oceans have been published, but they are contradictory. Values in freshwaters fare little better, but, in all cases, they are probably below 1 ng L−1,since ‘dissolved’ concentrations in natural waters are well below most current analytical capabilities.[74] Analysis requires pre-concentration procedures that, for the moment, do not give consistent results. And in any case, tantalum appears to be present in natural waters mostly as particulate matter rather than dissolved.[73]

Values for concentrations in soils, bed sediments and atmospheric aerosols are easier to come by.[73] Values in soils are close to 1 ppm and thus to UCC values. This indicates detrital origin. For atmospheric aerosols the values available are scattered and limited. When tantalum enrichment is observed, it is probably due to loss of more water-soluble elements in aerosols in the clouds.[75]

Pollution linked to human use of the element has not been detected.[76] Tantalum appears to be a very conservative element in biogeochemical terms, but its cycling and reactivity are still not fully understood.


Compounds containing tantalum are rarely encountered in the laboratory. The metal is highly biocompatible[67] and is used for body implants and coatings, therefore attention may be focused on other elements or the physical nature of the chemical compound.[77]

People can be exposed to tantalum in the workplace by breathing it in, skin contact, or eye contact. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set the legal limit (permissible exposure limit) for tantalum exposure in the workplace as 5 mg/m3 over an 8-hour workday. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set a recommended exposure limit (REL) of 5 mg/m3 over an 8-hour workday and a short-term limit of 10 mg/m3. At levels of 2500 mg/m3, tantalum is immediately dangerous to life and health.[78]


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External links


Coltan (short for columbite–tantalites and known industrially as tantalite) is a dull black metallic ore, from which the elements niobium and tantalum are extracted. The niobium-dominant mineral in coltan is columbite (after niobium's original American name columbium), and the tantalum-dominant mineral is tantalite.Tantalum from coltan is used to manufacture batteries for electric cars and, in tantalum capacitors, it is used in electronic products. Coltan mining has helped to finance serious conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example the Ituri conflict and the Second Congo War.


Dubnium is a synthetic chemical element with symbol Db and atomic number 105. Dubnium is highly radioactive: the most stable known isotope, dubnium-268, has a half-life of about 28 hours. This greatly limits the extent of research on dubnium.

Dubnium does not occur naturally on Earth and is produced artificially. The Soviet Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) claimed the first discovery of the element in 1968, followed by the American Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in 1970. Both teams proposed their names for the new element and used them without formal approval. The long-standing dispute was resolved in 1993 by an official investigation of the discovery claims by the IUPAC/IUPAP Joint Working Party, resulting in credit for the discovery being officially shared between both teams. The element was formally named dubnium in 1997 after the town of Dubna, the site of the JINR.

Theoretical research establishes dubnium as a member of group 5 in the 6d series of transition metals, placing it under vanadium, niobium, and tantalum. Dubnium should share most properties, such as its valence electron configuration and having a dominant +5 oxidation state, with the other group 5 elements, with a few anomalies due to relativistic effects. A limited investigation of dubnium chemistry has confirmed this. Solution chemistry experiments have revealed that dubnium often behaves more like niobium rather than tantalum, breaking periodic trends.

Electrolytic capacitor

An electrolytic capacitor (abbreviated e-cap) is a polarized capacitor whose anode or positive plate is made of a metal that forms an insulating oxide layer through anodization. This oxide layer acts as the dielectric of the capacitor. A solid, liquid, or gel electrolyte covers the surface of this oxide layer, serving as the (cathode) or negative plate of the capacitor. Due to their very thin dielectric oxide layer and enlarged anode surface, electrolytic capacitors have a much higher capacitance-voltage (CV) product per unit volume than ceramic capacitors or film capacitors, and so can have large capacitance values. There are three families of electrolytic capacitor: aluminum electrolytic capacitors, tantalum electrolytic capacitors, and niobium electrolytic capacitors.

The large capacitance of electrolytic capacitors makes them particularly suitable for passing or bypassing low-frequency signals, and for storing large amounts of energy. They are widely used for decoupling or noise filtering in power supplies and DC link circuits for variable-frequency drives, for coupling signals between amplifier stages, and storing energy as in a flashlamp.

Electrolytic capacitors are polarized components due to their asymmetrical construction and must be operated with a higher voltage (ie, more positive) on the anode than on the cathode at all times. For this reason the anode terminal is marked with a plus sign and the cathode with a minus sign. Applying a reverse polarity voltage, or a voltage exceeding the maximum rated working voltage of as little as 1 or 1.5 volts, can destroy the dielectric and thus the capacitor. The failure of electrolytic capacitors can be hazardous, resulting in an explosion or fire. Bipolar electrolytic capacitors which may be operated with either polarity are also made, using special constructions with two anodes connected in series.

Group 5 element

Group 5 (by IUPAC style) is a group of elements in the periodic table. Group 5 contains vanadium (V), niobium (Nb), tantalum (Ta) and dubnium (Db). This group lies in the d-block of the periodic table. The group itself has not acquired a trivial name; it belongs to the broader grouping of the transition metals.

The lighter three Group 5 elements occur naturally and share similar properties; all three are hard refractory metals under standard conditions. The fourth element, dubnium, has been synthesized in laboratories, but it has not been found occurring in nature, with half-life of the most stable isotope, dubnium-268, being only 29 hours, and other isotopes even more radioactive. To date, no experiments in a supercollider have been conducted to synthesize the next member of the group, either unpentseptium (Ups) or unpentennium (Upe). As unpentseptium and unpentennium are both late period 8 elements it is unlikely that these elements will be synthesized in the near future.

Isotopes of tantalum

Natural tantalum (73Ta) consists of two stable isotopes: 181Ta (99.988%) and 180mTa (0.012%).

There are also 35 known artificial radioisotopes, the longest-lived of which are 179Ta with a half-life of 1.82 years, 182Ta with a half-life of 114.43 days, 183Ta with a half-life of 5.1 days, and 177Ta with a half-life of 56.56 hours. All other isotopes have half-lives under a day, most under an hour. There are also numerous isomers, the most stable of which (other than 180mTa) is 178m1Ta with a half-life of 2.36 hours.

Tantalum has been proposed as a "salting" material for nuclear weapons (cobalt is another, better-known salting material). A jacket of 181Ta, irradiated by the intense high-energy neutron flux from an exploding thermonuclear weapon, would transmute into the radioactive isotope 182Ta with a half-life of 114.43 days and produce approximately 1.12 MeV of gamma radiation, significantly increasing the radioactivity of the weapon's fallout for several months. Such a weapon is not known to have ever been built, tested, or used.


Niobium, formerly known as columbium, is a chemical element with symbol Nb (formerly Cb) and atomic number 41. Niobium is a strong, light grey, crystalline, and ductile transition metal. Pure Niobium has a hardness similar to that of pure titanium, and it has similar ductility to iron. Niobium oxidizes in the earth's atmosphere very slowly, hence its application in jewelry as a hypoallergenic alternative to Nickel. Titanium is similarly used in the jewelry industry for similar reason due to its similarity to Niobium Chemically and Physically. Niobium is often found in the minerals pyrochlore and columbite, hence the former name "columbium". Its name comes from Greek mythology, specifically Niobe, who was the daughter of Tantalus, the namesake of tantalum. The name reflects the great similarity between the two elements in their physical and chemical properties, making them difficult to distinguish.The English chemist Charles Hatchett reported a new element similar to tantalum in 1801 and named it columbium. In 1809, the English chemist William Hyde Wollaston wrongly concluded that tantalum and columbium were identical. The German chemist Heinrich Rose determined in 1846 that tantalum ores contain a second element, which he named niobium. In 1864 and 1865, a series of scientific findings clarified that niobium and columbium were the same element (as distinguished from tantalum), and for a century both names were used interchangeably. Niobium was officially adopted as the name of the element in 1949, but the name columbium remains in current use in metallurgy in the United States.

It was not until the early 20th century that niobium was first used commercially. Brazil is the leading producer of niobium and ferroniobium, an alloy of 60–70% niobium with iron. Niobium is used mostly in alloys, the largest part in special steel such as that used in gas pipelines. Although these alloys contain a maximum of 0.1%, the small percentage of niobium enhances the strength of the steel. The temperature stability of niobium-containing superalloys is important for its use in jet and rocket engines.

Niobium is used in various superconducting materials. These superconducting alloys, also containing titanium and tin, are widely used in the superconducting magnets of MRI scanners. Other applications of niobium include welding, nuclear industries, electronics, optics, numismatics, and jewelry. In the last two applications, the low toxicity and iridescence produced by anodization are highly desired properties. Niobium is considered a technology-critical element.

Organotantalum chemistry

Organotantalum chemistry is the chemistry of chemical compounds containing a carbon-to-tantalum chemical bond. A wide variety of compound have been reported, initially with cyclopentadienyl and CO ligands. Oxidation states vary from Ta(V) to Ta(-I).

Potassium heptafluorotantalate

Potassium heptafluorotantalate is an inorganic compound with the formula K2[TaF7]. It is the potassium salt of the heptafluorotantalate anion [TaF7]2−. This white, water-soluble solid is an intermediate in the purification of tantalum from its ores and is the precursor to the metal.

Refractory metals

Refractory metals are a class of metals that are extraordinarily resistant to heat and wear. The expression is mostly used in the context of materials science, metallurgy and engineering. The definition of which elements belong to this group differs. The most common definition includes five elements: two of the fifth period (niobium and molybdenum) and three of the sixth period (tantalum, tungsten, and rhenium). They all share some properties, including a melting point above 2000 °C and high hardness at room temperature. They are chemically inert and have a relatively high density. Their high melting points make powder metallurgy the method of choice for fabricating components from these metals. Some of their applications include tools to work metals at high temperatures, wire filaments, casting molds, and chemical reaction vessels in corrosive environments. Partly due to the high melting point, refractory metals are stable against creep deformation to very high temperatures.


The mineral group tantalite [(Fe, Mn)Ta2O6] is the primary source of the chemical element tantalum. It is chemically similar to columbite, and the two are often grouped together as a semi-singular mineral called coltan or "columbite-tantalite" in many mineral guides. However, tantalite has a much greater specific gravity than columbite (8.0+ compared to columbite's 5.2). Iron-rich tantalite is the mineral tantalite-(Fe) or ferrotantalite and manganese-rich is tantalite-(Mn) or manganotantalite.

Tantalite is also very close to tapiolite. Those minerals have same chemical composition, but different crystal symmetry orthorhombic for tantalite and tetragonal for tapiolite.Tantalite is black to brown in both color and streak. Manganese-rich tantalites can be brown and translucent.

Tantalum(IV) sulfide

Tantalum(IV) sulfide is the inorganic compound with the formula TaS2. It is a layered compound with three-coordinate sulfide centres and trigonal prismatic metal centres. It is structurally similar to the more famous material molybdenum disulfide, MoS2. TaS2 is a semiconductor with d1 electron configuration. Although an obscure material otherwise, TaS2 has been the subject of numerous studies because it is a versatile host for intercalation of electron donors, and because it exhibits unusual phase transitions at low temperatures.

Tantalum(V) bromide

Tantalum(V) bromide is the inorganic compound with the formula Ta2Br10. It is a diamagnetic yellow solid that hydrolyses readily. The compound adopts an edge-shared bioctahedral structure, which means that two square pyramidal TaBr5 subunits are joined by a pair of bridging bromide ligands. The pentachlorides and pentaiodides of Nb and Ta share this structural motif.

Tantalum(V) chloride

Tantalum(V) chloride, also known as tantalum pentachloride, is an inorganic compound with the formula TaCl5. It takes the form of a white powder and is commonly used as a starting material in tantalum chemistry.

It readily hydrolyzes to form tantalum(V) oxychloride (TaOCl3) and eventually tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5); this requires that it be synthesised and manipulated under anhydrous conditions, using air-free techniques.

Tantalum capacitor

A tantalum electrolytic capacitor is an electrolytic capacitor, a passive component of electronic circuits. It consists of a pellet of tantalum metal as an anode, covered by an insulating oxide layer that forms the dielectric, surrounded by liquid or solid electrolyte as a cathode. Because of its very thin and relatively high permittivity dielectric layer, the tantalum capacitor distinguishes itself from other conventional and electrolytic capacitors in having high capacitance per volume (high volumetric efficiency) and lower weight.

Tantalum is a conflict mineral. Tantalum electrolytic capacitors are considerably more expensive than comparable aluminum electrolytic capacitors.

Tantalum capacitors are inherently polarized components. Reverse voltage can destroy the capacitor. Non-polar or bipolar tantalum capacitors are made by effectively connecting two polarized capacitors in series, with the anodes oriented in opposite directions.

Tantalum carbide

Tantalum carbides form a family of binary chemical compounds of tantalum and carbon with the empirical formula TaCx, where x usually varies between 0.4 and 1. They are extremely hard, brittle, refractory ceramic materials with metallic electrical conductivity. They appear as brown-gray powders, which are usually processed by sintering. Being important cermet materials, tantalum carbides are commercially used in tool bits for cutting applications and are sometimes added to tungsten carbide alloys. The melting points of tantalum carbides peak at about 3880 °C depending on the purity and measurement conditions; this value is among the highest for binary compounds. Only tantalum hafnium carbide may have a slightly higher melting point of about 3942 °C, whereas the melting point of hafnium carbide is comparable to that of TaC.

Tantalum nitride

Tantalum nitride (TaN) is an inorganic chemical compound. It is sometimes used to create barrier or "glue" layers between copper, or other conductive metals, and dielectric insulator films such as thermal oxides. These films are deposited on top of silicon wafers during the manufacture of integrated circuits, to create thin film surface mount resistors and has other electronic applications.

Tantalum pentafluoride

Tantalum(V) fluoride is the inorganic compound with the formula TaF5. It is one of the principal molecular compounds of tantalum. Characteristic of some other pentafluorides, the compound is volatile but exists as an oligomer in the solid state.

Tantalum pentoxide

Tantalum pentoxide, also known as tantalum(V) oxide, is the inorganic compound with the formula Ta2O5. It is a white solid that is insoluble in all solvents but is attacked by strong bases and hydrofluoric acid. Ta2O5 is an inert material with a high refractive index and low absorption (i.e. colourless), which makes it useful for coatings. It is also extensively used in the production of capacitors, due to its high dielectric constant.

Tantalum telluride

Tantalum telluride (TaTe2) is a chemical compound of tantalum and tellurium. Tantalum also forms a tantalum rich telluride with the approximate formula Ta1.6Te that is unusual in that it forms dodecagonal chalcogenide quasicrystals, a formation that cannot occur in a normal crystal because it does not result in a periodic crystal lattice.

Tantalum compounds

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