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Tantalum is a metal element with an atomic number of 73 and a chemical symbol of Ta. The element corresponding to the element is steel gray metal. It has extremely high corrosion resistance. It is resistant to hydrochloric acid and concentrated Neither nitric acid nor aqua regia reacts.
Tantalum mainly exists in tantalite and co-exists with niobium. Tantalum has moderate hardness  and is malleable, and can be drawn into a thin wire-like foil. Its thermal expansion coefficient is very small. Tantalum has excellent chemical properties and high corrosion resistance. It can be used to make evaporators, etc., and can also be used as electrodes, rectifiers, and electrolytic capacitors for electron tubes. Medically used to make thin sheets or thin threads to repair damaged tissues. Although tantalum has strong corrosion resistance, its corrosion resistance is due to the stable tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5) protective film formed on the surface.
The characteristics of tantalum make its application field very broad. In the equipment for preparing various inorganic acids, tantalum can be used to replace stainless steel, and its life span can be increased by several tens of times compared with stainless steel. In addition, in the chemical, electronic, electrical and other industries, tantalum can replace the precious metal platinum in the past, which greatly reduces the cost. Tantalum is manufactured into capacitors and used in military equipment. The U.S. military industry is extremely developed, and it is the world's largest arms exporter. Half of the world's tantalum metal output is used in the production of tantalum capacitors. The Logistics Agency of the United States Department of Defense is the largest owner of tantalum metal and once bought out one-third of the world's tantalum powder.
Preparation of Tantalum
① Metal tantalum powder can be prepared by metal thermal reduction (sodium thermal reduction) method. Reduce potassium fluorotantalate with metallic sodium under an inert atmosphere: K2TaF7+5Na─→Ta+5NaF+2KF. The reaction is carried out in a stainless steel tank. When the temperature is heated to 900°C, the reduction reaction is completed quickly. The tantalum powder prepared by this method has irregular grain shape and fine grain size, which is suitable for making tantalum capacitors. Metal tantalum powder can also be prepared by molten salt electrolysis: use the molten salt of potassium fluorotantalate, potassium fluoride and potassium chloride as the electrolyte to dissolve tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5) in it, and electrolyze it at 750°C to obtain Tantalum powder with a purity of 99.8 to 99.9%.
② Metal tantalum can also be obtained by carbothermic reduction of Ta2O5. The reduction is generally carried out in two steps: first, a mixture of Ta2O5 and carbon in a certain proportion is made into tantalum carbide (TaC) at 1800～2000℃ in a hydrogen atmosphere, and then TaC and Ta2O5 are made into a mixture vacuum according to a certain proportion. Reduced to metal tantalum. Tantalum metal can also be obtained by thermal decomposition or hydrogen reduction of tantalum chloride. The dense metal tantalum can be prepared by vacuum arc, electron beam, plasma beam smelting or powder metallurgy. High-purity tantalum single crystal is prepared by crucible-free electron beam zone melting method.
Tantalum is one of the rare metal mineral resources and an indispensable strategic raw material for the development of the electronics industry and space technology.
Tantalum and niobium have similar physical and chemical properties, so they coexist in natural minerals. The classification of tantalum or niobium ore is mainly based on the content of tantalum and niobium in the mineral. When the niobium content is high, it is called niobium ore, and when the tantalum content is high, it is called tantalum ore. Niobium is mainly used in the manufacture of carbon steel, super alloy, high-strength low-alloy steel, stainless steel, heat-resistant steel and alloy steel; tantalum is mainly used in the production of electronic components and alloys. The occurrence form and chemical composition of tantalum-niobium minerals are complex. In addition to tantalum and niobium, they often contain rare earth metals, titanium, zirconium, tungsten, uranium, thorium and tin. The main minerals of tantalum are: Tantalite [(Fe,Mn)(Ta,Nb)2O6], heavy tantalite (FeTa2O6), fine spar [(Na,Ca)Ta2O6(O,OH,F)] and Black and rare gold ore [(Y,Ca,Ce,U,Th)(Nb,Ta,Ti)2O6] etc. Tantalum is contained in tin smelting slag, which is also an important resource of tantalum. The world's tantalum reserves (in terms of tantalum) have been found to be about 134,000 short tons, with Zaire occupying the first place. The world production of tantalum minerals (in terms of tantalum) in 1979 was 788 short tons (1 short ton = 907.2 kg). China has made achievements in the process of extracting tantalum from minerals with relatively low tantalum content.
Capacitors are the main final consumption area of tantalum, accounting for about 60% of total consumption. The United States is the country with the largest consumption of tantalum. In 1997, the consumption reached 500 tons, of which 60% was used to produce tantalum capacitors. Japan is the second largest country in tantalum consumption, with a consumption of 334 tons. At the beginning of the 21st century, with the rapid development of capacitor production, the market is in short supply. It is estimated that the world's production of tantalum capacitors will reach 250 million pieces, and 1,000 tons of tantalum will be consumed. According to the statistics of the United States Geological Survey, the natural reserves of tantalum in the earth's crust are 150,000 tons, and the recoverable reserves exceed 43,000 tons. In 2004, the world's tantalum mining volume was 1,510 tons, of which 730 tons in Australia, 280 tons in Mozambique, 250 tons in Brazil, 69 tons in Canada, and 60 tons in Congo. China's resources are mainly distributed in Jiangxi, Fujian, Xinjiang, Guangxi, Hunan and other provinces. From the perspective of future development needs, capacitors are still the main application areas of tantalum. If calculated on the basis of reserves of 24,000 tons, it can only guarantee 24 years of demand. Nevertheless, the prospects for tantalum resources are still promising. First of all, in the world's very rich niobium deposits, there are a large amount of tantalum resources associated with it. Among them, the tantalum resources of the Gadal niobium and tantalum mines in southern Greenland amount to 1 million tons. Secondly, the West has begun to use a large amount of tin slag containing Ta2O5 below 3%. In addition, the research and utilization of substitutes have also made rapid development. For example, aluminum and ceramics can replace tantalum in the field of capacitors; silicon, germanium, and cesium can be used in electronic instruments to replace tantalum to make rectifiers.