Tantalum, the rare metal found in Sutlej


09:30 AM

1 min read
Tantalum, the rare metal found in Sutlej Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • Tantalum
  • What is tantalum?
  • Uses of tantalum
  • Significance of the discovery of tantalum in the Sutlej River

Why in news?

  • 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.
  • According to experts, the presence of tantalum is significant as the metal is widely used in electronics and semiconductors.

What is tantalum?

  • About
    • Tantalum is a rare metal with the atomic number 73 — the number of protons found in one atom of the element.
    • It is grey, heavy, very hard, and one of the most corrosion-resistant metals in use today.
    • Tantalum also has an extremely high melting point, exceeded only by tungsten and rhenium.
  • Properties
    • It possesses high corrosion resistance.
      • 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.
    • It is almost completely immune to chemical attack at temperatures below 150°C, and is attacked only by hydrofluoric acid.
  • Discovery
    • Tantalum was discovered by Anders Gustaf Ekenberg, a Swedish chemist, in 1802 in minerals obtained from Ytterby, Sweden.

Uses of tantalum

  • Use in electronic sector
    • Tantalum is most prominently used in the electronics 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.
  • A substitute for platinum
    • As tantalum has a high melting point, it is frequently used as a substitute for platinum, which is more expensive.
  • In making surgical equipment and implants
    • Tantalum does not react with bodily fluids and is used to make surgical equipment and implants, like artificial joints.
  • Cutting edges of high-speed machine tools
    • 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.
  • Other uses
    • The rare metal is also used to make components for chemical plants, nuclear power plants, aeroplanes and missiles.

Significance of the discovery of tantalum in the Sutlej River

  • Semiconductor manufacturing
    • The discovery of tantalum in the Sutlej River in Punjab is significant for India because of its value in electronics and semiconductors.
    • This is quite significant as Govt. has taken multiple steps in recent past to boost the semiconductor manufacturing in India.
  • Boost to India’s critical mineral policy
    • The critical mineral policy lists 10 minerals (including Tantalum) where India entirely relies on imports.
      • The policy maps mineral requirements for a clutch of sectors including renewables, defence, electronics, telecommunications and transportation.
  • Cut down dependence on China
    • China’s hegemony over critical minerals is not optimal for India. Hence, this discovery will reduce India’s dependence on China.
  • India’s ambitious renewable energy targets
    • India wants renewables’ share in the grid to rise to 500 GW by 2030.
    • It also wants 30% of private cars, 70% of commercial vehicles and 80% of two- and three-wheelers to go electric by 2030.
  • State’s economy
    • The discovery of tantalum could potentially benefit the state's economy by promoting the mining of these valuable metals.

Q1) What is atomic number?

The atomic number of an element is the number of protons in the nucleus of each atom of that element. It is also known as the nuclear charge number, with the symbol Z.

Q2) What is the melting point?

The melting point of a substance is the temperature at which it changes from a solid to a liquid. It's also the temperature at which the solid and liquid phases of a substance exist in equilibrium.

Source: What is tantalum, the rare metal found in Sutlej? | The Wire