Tantalum (Ta) is a grey, heavy, very hard metal with a high melting point. Tantalum is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ta and atomic number 73. The name of this metal is derived from King Tantalus, a figure in Greek mythology. Due to its properties tantalum is used in the electronics industry.
Tantalum is characterized by a high melting point (3017°C). When pure, it is ductile (i.e., can be drawn into a wire) and can be easily fabricated. Tantalum has good rectifying properties (i.e., converts alternating to direct current) and dielectric properties (i.e., does not conduct direct current). Alloyed with other metals it imparts strength, ductility and a high melting point.
The principal industrial use of tantalum is in electric capacitors and cemented carbide cutting tools. Because of its high resistance to corrosion by most acids, tantalum is used increasingly by petroleum and chemical plants (see Chemical and Chemical Products Industries).
Global demand for tantalum has increased since the mid-1990s, due to the use of tantalum capacitors in small portable electronic components such as laptop computers, video cameras, game consoles and mobile phones. (See also Computers and Canadian Society; Video Games in Canada; Telecommunications.)The growth in demand for the metal will increase due to new markets, such as under-hood applications in automobiles and computer memory chips and processors (see Semiconductors and Transistors).
Tantalum occurs principally in the mineral columbite-tantalite. Tantalum ores are found in Canada, Australia, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and China. In Thailand and Malaysia, it is recovered mainly from tin slags. Tantalum Mining Corporation of Canada, Ltd (TANCO), Canada's only producer, is located in Bernic Lake, Manitoba (see Mining).