Rare Metal Investments – Tantalum

rare metal investments - Bismuth

Tantalum is in the A, C & D Baskets.

A figure from Greek mythology had to serve as a name for the rare raw material: Tantalus. Tantalus once dined with the Gods and stole nectar and ambrosia, and a golden dog from the Temple of Zeus and was punished with “eternal torment“ for his sins. A suitable name thinks Anders Gustaf Ekeberg, who discovered tantalum in the columbite ore in 1801 in Finland; because the very stable metal “must languish in pain and cannot quench its thirst, same as Tantalus in the Underworld“.

Even the modern world would languish in pain if tantalum was absent. It lit up even entire cities in early days as Tantalum was the raw material for manufacturing the filaments of light bulbs, before tungsten took over its application. Today, the metal is found once again in many areas, without which life in the 21st Century is difficult to imagine. Tantalum capacitors are small, powerful and are suitable for high frequency ranges. This makes their use almost indispensable and versatile, such as in mobile phones, computers and games consoles, medical equipment or radio, things that hardly anyone would like to relinquish in the Western world. In addition, the element is used as a high-temperature alloy in aircraft turbines because of its high melting point.

Tantalum is also used in medicine. Since it is non-toxic and does not react with body fluids, it is often used in implants. The use as capacitors alone consumes 551 tonnes of the world‘s production of 1,160 tonnes of tantalum – by the year 2030, this amount will even rise to an estimated 1,410 tonnes. Every second tonne of it is produced in Australia, with Brazil and Canada following at a clear distance on the places two and three. Looking at its popularity one can only hope that tantalum is spared the fate of Tantalus, the grey shimmering metal would not deserve an exile in the underworld.

Specifications

Element Symbol: Ta
Atomic mass: 180.9479 amu
Atomic radius: 200 pm
Density: 16.65 g/cm³
Colour: Silvery White
Melting point: 3,017 °C
Boiling point: 5,458 °C
Heat of evaporation: 735 kJ/mol
Annual production worldwide approx.: 1,160 t.

Application

  • Mobile phones and automobiles
  • Chemical industry
  • All electronic devices
  • Ultra small capacitors with high capacity SMD technology
  • Medical implants, bone nails, prostheses, maxillary screws, dental & hip replacements
  • Surgical instruments