A team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ropar has found the presence of tantalum, a rare metal, in the Sutlej river sand in Punjab.
What is tantalum?
- A rare metal with the atomic number 73 — the number of protons found in one atom of the element.
- It’s grey, heavy, very hard, and one of the most corrosion-resistant metals in use today.
- It possesses high corrosion resistance because when exposed to air, it forms an oxide layer that is extremely difficult to remove, even when it interacts with strong and hot acid environments.
- When pure, tantalum is ductile, meaning it can be stretched, pulled, or drawn into a thin wire or thread without breaking.
- Moreover, it “is almost completely immune to chemical attack at temperatures below 150°C, and is attacked only by hydrofluoric acid, acidic solutions containing the fluoride ion, and free sulphur trioxide,”.
- The rare metal has been named after a Greek mythological figure Tantalus, the rich but wicked king of a town above Mount Sipylus in Anatolia.
- Tantalus is best known for the terrible punishment he received from Zeus after the former tried to serve his son at a feast with the gods.
What are the uses?
- Tantalum is most prominently used in the electronic sector.
- The capacitors made from tantalum are capable of storing more electricity in smaller sizes without much leakage than any other type of capacitor.
- This makes them ideal for use in portable electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and digital cameras.
- As tantalum has a high melting point, it is frequently used as a substitute for platinum, which is more expensive.
- The rare metal is also used to make components for chemical plants, nuclear power plants, aeroplanes and missiles.
- Tantalum does not react with bodily fluids and is used to make surgical equipment and implants, like artificial joints.
- A composite consisting of tantalum carbide (TaC) and graphite is one of the hardest materials known and is used on the cutting edges of high-speed machine tools.
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