In 1802 whilst studying minerals form the Scandinavian region, Swedish scientist Ekeberg, discovered a new substance and called it tantalum. Its name was taken from Tantalus, of Greek mythology, due the resistance it had towards acids i.e. its “tantalizing” behaviour.
Tantalum is a shiny, silvery metal, which is soft when pure. It is very resistant to corrosion due to an oxide film on its surface, but it is attacked by HF and molten alkalis. It is a white colour when polished, but in air immediately forms an adherent oxide which gives the metal an iron grey colour.
The metal is prepared from Ta205 by reduction with alkali metals or by electrolysis of fused fluorides. The metal has a bcc structure, remaining lustrous in air but reacts with oxygen or steam at high temperatures and dissolves in HNO3 – HF.
It has good electrical properties and maintains these at high temperature. Oxidation resistance is very good up to 450°C when it falls off rapidly, but above 500°C tantalum must be used under vacuum or one of the inert gases.
It is largely found in the +5 oxidation state and is very similar to niobium chemistry. Its major difference from niobium is the absence of stoichiometric oxides for Ta and the minor differences are in complex species i.e. [TaCl6]- and [NbOCl5]2– in HCl solutions.
Relative Atomic Mass
While our business in Tantalum started in the 1990s with the flow of scrap from the former Soviet Union, today we draw in units worldwide.
The overriding concern today is to ensure that units of Tantalum metal are not derived from illegal or forced labour in ‘conflict zones’ or from any enterprises which support illegal mining activities. In accordance with recent legislation: ‘Dodd Frank’ Act – tantalum traded must be provably not sourced from Tantalite mined at any EICC unapproved/ un-certified mines. Due to the un-traceability of Tantalum units contained in post-consumer scrap, Tantalum generated from such processes is exempt from this Act. However, for reasons of excessive due diligence, some customers exceed the law by not accepting deliveries of this kind of scrap either. For these reasons legislation has made the free trade of Tantalum complicated, however our policy may be seen in the Compliance section of our website.
We can accept offers of supply for various forms of Tantalum. Sheet cuts, Cylindrical ingot, Wire, Anode scrap/ Capacitor scrap, Tube – Please advise % Ta & exact form and quantities available.
Lying behind the growth in world trade for this minor metal, was essentially the mobile phone industry. The demand, initially for mobile phones, and now for smart phones, tablets, laptops have driven this market. When the mobile phone industry commercialised the need for Tantalum capacitors, suddenly a 2 gram tantalum capacitor per phone (only now beginning to be recycled) was translated into many thousands of pounds (lbs) of Tantalum consumption.
Tantalum has a wide range of mature and stable uses. These include its addition in complex nickel base alloys used for casting into single crystal turbine blades, medical implants where Tantalum, in its pure unalloyed form, is used because of its non-reactivity to the body’s chemistry or where, with tungsten, it may be found in drill bits.
The buying power of the telecoms industry briefly left units scarce for buyers in traditional markets with miners & processors running to catch up, however at the time of writing, the market is more stable and ‘tagging & bagging’ of Tantalite from ‘conflict zone’ sources has legitimised supply that might otherwise have been blocked off.
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