Tantalum is a element of the periodic table of elements, and the ore it is found in, and extracted from is tantalite.. Tantalum is a hard metal, and has sort of a bluish-gray color. It has 73 electrons: 2 in its first shell, 8 in its second, 18 in its third, 32 in its fourth, 11 in its fifth, and 2 in its sixth and outermost shell. It has a melting point of a blazing 5463 degrees Fahrenheit, and a boiling point of 9856 degrees.

Origins of Name

Tantalum gets its name from the Greek character Tantalus, who was punished for killing his own son, then cooking the boy and offering him to the gods. As punishment for the act, Tantalus was placed on a pool of water with branches of fruit overhead. Whenever he bends down to get a drink of the water, it recedes away like a tide. Whenever he reaches up to take one of the fruits, the branches rise up so that he can't grab one. Likewise, The English word 'tantalizing' comes from the same story, where something so tempting is just out of reach.

Details of Discovery

Tantalum was discovered by Anders Ekeburg. The discovery was related to the discovering of columbium, which had been found a year later. At the time, the two were thought to be the same element, as they are very similar, but disputes arose and eventually we now have two elements, and columbium was renamed niobium after the daughter of Tantalus. 

Extracting Tantalum

Tantalum isn't the easiest metal to find, and makes about 1 to 2 ppm of the earth's crust. It is usually found in an ore known as tantalite, along with niobium. The tantalum can be extracted from the ore by crushing the tantalite, and then by using gravity separation the ore is concentrated. Acids Tantalum Metal Is Excellent For Surgical EquipmentCredit: Wikipediaare used to dissolve the tantalum and niobium, making complex mixtures that can be separated from impurities, and from each other. More tantalum is mined in Australia than anywhere else. The company Global Advanced Metals owns two large tantalum mines, and the tantalum that they mine is upgraded before being sold to customers. Other mines that specialize in niobium mining also tend to find tantalum and extract it also.

Uses of Tantalum

Tantalum has its uses, its quirks, and its talents. Tantalum is very unreactive, which is partly why it got its name. It is produced in tantalum sheet, tantalum wire and tantalum rod forms.  The unreactive ability and the fact that it has the third highest melting point of any metal makes it useful for tools and equipment that is to be used for experiments in laboratories. It is almost immune to acids, especially at temperatures under 150 Degrees Celcius. The only acids to penetrate this metal are Hydrochloric acid, and Sulfuric acid. It also does not react with bodily fluids, or body parts, so it can be used in surgical equipment and artificial joints. It can be combined with other metals to give them higher melting and boiling points. Tantalum carbide and graphite can be combined to create a material that is hard enough to use in high-speed machine tools. It is also used in the production of electronics, mainly cell phones and DVD players.

Saving lives through surgery, cutting things with machinery, providing entertainment through electronics, tantalum is certainly a helpful element, while the ore tantalite is now highly sought after.