What is Tellurium?

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Physicists recently found evidence that tellurium is produced in neutron star mergers.

About Tellurium

  • Tellurium is a semi-metallic, lustrous, crystalline, brittle, silver-white element.
  • Atomic Number: 52
  • It has the properties of both the metals and the nonmetals.
  • It forms many compounds corresponding to those of sulfur and selenium.
  • When burned in the air, tellurium has a greenish-blue flame and forms tellurium dioxide as a result.
  • Tellurium is a semiconductor material and is slightly photosensitive.
  • It is one of the only elements that readily combine with gold (Au).
  • Sources:
    • Tellurium is sometimes found free in nature. 
    • More commonly, it is found combined with metals, such as in the minerals calaverite (gold telluride, AuTe2) and sylvanite (silver-gold telluride).
    • Commercially, tellurium is obtained as a byproduct of electrolytic copper refining.
  • Applications:
    • Tellurium is alloyed with copper and stainless steel to make these metals more workable.
    • It is added at very low levels to lead to decreases the corrosive action of sulfuric acid in batteries and to improve the lead’s strength and hardness.
    • It is used as a coloring agent in ceramics.
    • It is also used in the electronics industry, for example, with cadmium and mercury to form photosensitive semiconductors.
    • It is used in vulcanizing rubber, and in catalysts for petroleum cracking, and in blasting caps for explosives.

What is a Neutron Star?

  • A neutron star is an extremely dense and compact celestial object that forms after the core of a massive star collapses under its own gravity during a supernova explosion. 

Q1) What is a semiconductor?

Semiconductors are materials which have a conductivity between conductors (generally metals) and nonconductors or insulators (such as most ceramics). Semiconductors can be pure elements, such as silicon or germanium, or compounds such as gallium arsenide or cadmium selenide. In a process called doping, small amounts of impurities are added to pure semiconductors causing large changes in the conductivity of the material.Semiconductors are an essential component of electronic devices, enabling advances in communications, computing, healthcare, military systems etc.

Source: Evidence found for the production of tellurium in neutron star mergers