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Tantalum

  • 22 Nov 2023
  • 3 min read

Why in News?  

Tantalum, a rare metal with remarkable properties, has been discovered in the sands of the Sutlej River in Punjab by a team of researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ropar. 
 

 What are the Key Facts About Tantalum? 

  • Discovery: 
    • Tantalum is a rare metal with the atomic number 73. It was first discovered in 1802 by Swedish chemist Anders Gustaf Ekenberg. 

  • Properties: 
    • It is grey, heavy, and highly corrosion-resistant, forming an oxide layer when exposed to air. 
    • Pure tantalum is ductile, allowing it to be stretched into thin wires without breaking. 
    • Extremely resistant to chemical attack at temperatures below 150°C, it is affected only by hydrofluoric acid, acidic solutions with fluoride ions, and free sulphur trioxide. 
    • Tantalum also has an extremely high melting point. 
  • Uses of Tantalum: 
    • Electronic Sector:  
      • Capacitors made from tantalum are vital for storing more electricity in smaller sizes, ideal for portable electronic devices. 
      • A committee of experts within the Ministry of Mines has recognized a collection of 30 critical minerals for India, with Tantalum being among them. 
      • It is also used to make components for chemical plants, nuclear power plants, aeroplanes and missiles. 
    • Substitute for Platinum:  
      • It has a high melting point, and is frequently used as a substitute for platinum, which is more expensive. 
    • Medical Applications:  
      • Tantalum does not react with bodily fluids and is used to make surgical equipment and implants, like artificial joints, according to the US Department of Energy. 
    • Cutting-Edge Material:  
      • Composite with tantalum carbide (TaC) and graphite is one of the hardest materials, used in high-speed machine tool cutting edges. 

What is the Significance of the Discovery of Tantalum in Sutlej? 

  • The discovery of tantalum in the Sutlej River sand indicates that there may be a potential source of tantalum in India, which could reduce the dependence on imports and increase the domestic supply. 
    • India imports most of its Tantalum metal from the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. 
  • The discovery of tantalum can help in enhancing India's electronics and semiconductor Industry. 
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