Overview of Tantalum’s Main Products & Applications

Tantalum has a series of excellent properties such as high melting point, low vapor pressure, good cold workability, high chemical stability, strong resistance to liquid metal corrosion, and large dielectric constant of the surface oxide film. Therefore, tantalum is mainly used in high-tech fields such as electronics, metallurgy, steel, chemicals, hard alloys, atomic energy, superconducting technology, automotive electronics, aerospace, medical health and scientific research.

50% -70% of tantalum in the world is used to make tantalum capacitors in the form of capacitor-grade tantalum powder and tantalum wire. The surface of tantalum can form a dense and stable amorphous oxide film with high dielectric strength, which is easy to accurately and conveniently control the capacitor’s anodizing process. Tantalum powder sintered blocks can obtain a large surface area in a small volume, so tantalum capacitors have high capacitance, low leakage current, low equivalent series resistance, good high and low temperature characteristics, long service life, and excellent comprehensive performance. Tantalum capacitors are widely used in industrial and scientific and technological sectors such as communications (exchanges, mobile phones, pagers, fax machines, etc.), computers, automobiles, home and office appliances, instrumentation, aerospace, defense and military.

tantalum-capacitors

Tantalum is an extremely versatile functional material. The following are the main products and applications of tantalum.

Tantalum carbide

Application: Cutting tools

Properties: Tantalum carbide is easy to form at high temperature to avoid texture

Tantalum lithium

Application areas: surface acoustic waves, mobile phone filters, hi-fi and TV

Properties: strengthen the electronic signal wave, output more clear audio and video

Tantalum oxide

Applications: Lenses for telescopes, cameras and mobile phones, X-ray films, inkjet printers

Properties: Adjust the refractive index of optical glass, reduce X-ray exposure, improve image quality, and improve the wear resistance of integrated capacitors in integrated circuits

Tantalum powder

Applications: Tantalum capacitors in electronic circuits, medical devices, automotive parts such as ABS, airbag activation, engine management modules, GPS, portable electronics such as laptops, mobile phones, other devices such as flat-screen TVs, battery chargers, power diodes , Oil well probe, mobile phone signal shielding mast

Properties: high reliability, low failure rate, strong electronic storage capacity, it can withstand low temperature such as -55 ℃ and high temperature + 220 ℃, as well as severe vibration forces

Tantalum plate

Applications: Chemical reaction equipment such as coatings, valves, internal heat exchangers, cathodic protection systems for steel structures, water tanks, corrosion-resistant fasteners such as screws, nuts and bolts

Properties: excellent corrosion resistance

Tantalum wire and tantalum rod

Applications: Tantalum wire and tantalum rod are used to repair hip joints, skull plates, bones after receiving tumor damage, suture clips, stent blood vessels

Properties: strong biological compatibility

Tantalum-artificial-joint

Tantalum wire and tantalum rod

Application: High temperature furnace parts

Properties: Melting point is as high as 2996 ℃ (but vacuum protection is required)

Tantalum Disc

Application: sputtering target

Properties: thin layer of tantalum, tantalum nitride coating oxide or semiconductor prevents copper migration

Tantalum ingot

Application: Super alloys such as jet engine vortex discs (such as blades)

Properties: The alloy composition contains 3~11% tantalum provides corrosion-resistant hot gas and allows higher operating temperature

Tantalum ingot

Application: Computer hardware driver CD

Properties: An alloy containing 6% of tantalum has shape memory properties

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality tantalum products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com/ for more information.

How is Tantalum Used in Waste Acid Recovery Equipment?

In the atmosphere or aqueous solution, the surface of the tantalum material will immediately form a very dense oxide film, which has a very good protective effect on the tantalum matrix, so that tantalum has extremely excellent corrosion resistance. The corrosion resistance of tantalum is similar to that of glass. Except for hydrofluoric acid, fuming sulfur trioxide and concentrated sulfuric acid, concentrated phosphoric acid and alkali at high temperature (above 180 ℃), tantalum is stable to other acids (hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, phosphoric acid) and aqua regia (reaction rate is less than 0.01 mm/a).

Tantalum has important uses in the chemical industry and is an ideal material for the manufacture of waste acid recovery equipment, but the expensive price restricts the scale development of tantalum in the anti-corrosion industry.

tantaline

Adding 2.5% tungsten to tantalum to form Ta2.5W alloy will not weaken its corrosion resistance, nor increase its density too much, but it can increase its strength. Therefore, it is possible to further roll thin-walled pipes, which can greatly reduce costs in the field of the anti-corrosion industry, and further promote the application of tantalum waste acid recovery equipment.

The development history of tantalum equipment

As early as the 1940s, developed countries already used tantalum to make waste acid treatment equipment. Tantalum is the material of choice for equipment that can handle acids other than hydrofluoric acid, so tantalum plays a significant role in industries that generate large amounts of waste acid. Countries around the world are studying the use of tantalum’s good processability and super corrosion resistance to process waste acid recovery equipment. In the 1930s and 1940s, the United States manufactured tantalum equipment and obtained important applications in the acid industry. For example, DuPont of the United States has become one of the world’s largest tantalum equipment companies, Astro Metallurgy of the United States, BSL of France, and COMETIC of Germany have also become powerful international tantalum equipment manufacturing companies.

Tantalum waste acid recovery equipment

The exterior of the tantalum waste acid recovery equipment is made of stainless steel as a load-bearing structure; it is lined with tantalum or tantalum 2.5 tungsten plate to resist acid corrosion; it’s inside is a device made of tantalum tube for heating or heat exchange device.

Acid-recovery
Acid-recovery

Process of waste acid recovery

The continuous concentrated distillation process is used to recover the waste acid. The liquid enters from the back-extracted liquid inlet, and then is preheated in the second-effect chamber by gaseous water vapor and acid volatilized steam, then enters the vaporization chamber for further heating, and then enters the evaporation chamber and is coiled. Heated by the heater, the acid and water vapor enters the second-effect chamber through the vaporization chamber, the fractionation chamber, and the connecting pipe. After the second-effect chamber is initially cooled, it enters the condensation chamber to condense into usable acid. Tantalum waste acid recovery equipment is used in the rare earth industry or acid regeneration industry. Because the recovery process of rare earth and waste acid uses a fully closed system and is a full physical process, the degree of recovery of rare earth and acid is high.

Advantages of tantalum equipment

Reasonable price evaluation is a prerequisite for the promotion and application of tantalum waste acid recovery equipment. The evaluation of economics should not only consider the original manufacturing cost but also take into account post-maintenance maintenance, spare parts, and corresponding labor costs and loss of production, etc. Comparing to various aspects, tantalum waste acid recovery equipment has the irreplaceable advantages of other metals and non-metals in the recovery and reuse of rare earth and waste acid.

Waste acid recovery equipment made of tantalum plate and tantalum tube has a long service life and low maintenance costs for long-term use. The tantalum waste acid recovery equipment has a good process connection, which comprehensively solves the problems of salt recovery, acid regeneration, and continuous production. It can make full use of the waste heat of recycled materials, and it has an obvious energy-saving effect and good economic benefits.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality tantalum products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com/ for more information.

How is Tantalum Carbide Applied?

Tantalum Carbide (TaC) is an extremely hard refractory ceramic material. It has a metallic luster but may also be found as a dark to light brown powder, and it burns in air with a bright flash and is slightly soluble in acids.

Tantalum carbide has excellent physical and chemical properties, such as high hardness, high melting point, good electrical conductivity, and thermal shock resistance, good resistance to chemical corrosion, high resistance to oxidation and catalytic properties, etc. which make tantalum carbide widely used in industrial and military fields.

The main uses of tantalum carbide are cemented carbide, capacitors, electronic components, high-temperature components, chemical equipment, and armor-piercing projectiles.

tantalum-carbide

Cemented carbide

Tantalum carbide plays an important role in cemented carbides. It improves the properties of the alloy by improving the fiber structure and phase transformation kinetics, giving the alloy higher strength, phase stability, and processability.

Tantalum is particularly effective in promoting nucleation and preventing precipitation of carbon in the core crystalline brittle film formed during the late solidification. Its main functions are: (1) preventing the growth of cemented carbide grains; (2) forming a third dispersed phase other than tungsten carbide (WC) and Co together with titanium carbide (TiC), thereby significantly increasing the thermal shock resistance and crater wear resistance of cemented carbide and improves its red hardness.

applications

Electronics industry

In recent years, transition metal carbides have attracted much attention due to their chemical stability, high hardness, strong resistance to oxidation and corrosion, and low electrical resistivity. Carbide nanomaterials have shown great potential in metal coatings, tools, machine parts, and composites. Of all the carbide nanowire materials, silver carbide is one of the most popular materials and one of the most promising materials.

Tantalum carbide not only inherits many advantages of carbide nanomaterials, but also has its own unique side, such as high hardness (Mohs hardness of 9-10 at normal temperature, high melting point (about 3880 ° C), high Young’s modulus (283-550 GPa), strong conductivity (32.7-117.4 μΩ•cm at 25 °C conductivity) ), high temperature superconductivity (10.5K), chemical corrosion resistant candle and thermal shock capacity, high catalytic activity for ammonia decomposition and hydrogen separation.

At present, tantalum carbide powder and tantalum carbide whiskers have been prepared by carbothermal reduction, thermal plasma, solvothermal, sol-gel, microwave heating, alkali reduction, self-propagating high-temperature synthesis, and high-frequency induction heating sintering.

Superalloy

Among the carbides, the most refractory resistance is tantalum carbide (TaC) (melting point 3890 ℃) and niobium carbide (HfC) (melting point 3880 ℃), followed by zirconium carbide (ZrC) (melting point 3500 ℃). At high temperatures, these materials have excellent mechanical properties, far exceeding the best polycrystalline graphite, especially tantalum carbide, which is the only material that maintains certain mechanical properties in the temperature range of 2900 ℃ to 3200 ℃. However, its shortcoming is that it is extremely sensitive to thermal shock, and the low thermal conductivity and high thermal expansion coefficient of carbides have become the biggest obstacles in the application of aerospace materials. The addition of tantalum carbide to the carbon/carbon composite material will result in higher thermal conductivity and lower thermal expansion conditions and will exert the oxidation resistance and ablation resistance of the refractory metal.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality tantalum products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com/ for more information.


Reference

[1] Hassine N.A, Biner JG.P, Cross T E .Synthesis of Refractory Metal Carbide Powder via Microwave Carbontherm al Reduction [J]. Int. J. of Refractory Metals & Hard Materials, 1995, 13:353-358

[2] Tsutsumoto T. Improvement of Tafilament for diamond CVD [J].Thin Solid Films, 1998, 317:371-375.

[3] Souza C.P, Favoto C, Satre Petal. Preparation of tantalum carbide from an organometallic Preeursor [J].Brazilian Journal of Chemical Engineering, 1999,16(l):l-6.

[4] Lingmu Shou et al. The Different Effect between TaC and NbC on Cemented Carbide [J].Powder &Powder Metallurgy, 1983; 30 (7): 263.

[5] Suzuk H, Yamamoto T. Effects of Carbon Content on the Properties of Tungsten Carbide -Tantalum Carbide -10% Cobalt Cemented Carbides[J].Inter J of Powder Metallurgy,1967 ; 3(3):17.

What is the Trend of Ta & Nb Market?

The atomic sequences of tantalum (Ta) and niobium (Nb) are 73 and 41, respectively, both of which are located in the VB family of excessive elements. They are often symbiotic in nature and are important refractory rare metals. They look like steel, off-white luster, and the powder is dark gray. They have excellent properties, including a high melting point, high boiling point, low vapor pressure, good cold workability, high chemical stability, strong resistance to liquid metal and acid and alkali corrosion, and high dielectric constant of the surface oxide film, etc.

Tantalum and niobium metals and their compounds and alloys are important functional materials, which has important applications in the technical fields of electronics, steel, metallurgy, chemicals, hard alloys, atomic energy, aerospace, and other industrial sectors as well as strategic weapons, superconducting technology, scientific research, medical devices and so on.

ta-nb

Applications of tantalum and niobium

Tantalum and niobium are similar in nature and can be replaced in many application areas. However, their respective characteristics have led to the use of tantalum in industries such as electronics, metallurgy, chemicals, and hard alloys. Electrolytic capacitors made of tantalum metals in the electronics industry have outstanding characteristics such as large capacitance, small leakage current, good stability, high reliability, good pressure resistance, long life, and small volume. They are widely used in national defense, aviation and aerospace, electronic computers, high-end civilian electrical appliances and electronic circuits of various electronic instruments. Niobium is used in industrial-grade superconducting technology such as steel, ceramics and nuclear energy.

In today’s world, about 65% of the total tantalum is used in the electronics industry, and about 87% of the total niobium is used in the steel industry. With the advancement of technology, the application fields of tantalum and niobium and its alloys and processed materials will continue to expand.

tantalum

Tantalum can store and release energy, which is indispensable in the electronics industry, so tantalum capacitors consume more than half of the world’s mine production. The tantalum-based components can be made very small, and other chemical elements cannot be used as substitutes without degrading the performance of the electronic device, so tantalum is almost ubiquitous as a component application, such as a mobile phone, a hard disk, and a hearing aid. In the chemical industry, the corrosion resistance of tantalum is very good and it is used as a lining for pipelines and tanks. Tantalum carbide has a high hardness and is an ideal material for manufacturing cutting tools, and tantalum oxide can increase the refractive index of glass lenses.

Current supply and demand situation

Before the end of 2011, the industry was generally operating in a benign environment. The front end of tantalum niobium production has a large space, the intermediate wet smelting and fire smelting also have a certain profit, and the back end high specific volume of tantalum powder and tantalum wire production and sales market also has a large operation space. However, since the second half of 2012, with the emergence of the global financial crisis, such applications as tantalum niobium are relatively narrow and the consumer sector has been greatly affected by the high-end electronic products industry.

Tantalum Uses
Tantalum Uses

The trend of the tantalum niobium market

At present, the production in the tantalum niobium industry is mainly based on wet smelting and pyrometallurgical smelting. The products produced are mainly potassium fluoroantimonate, antimony oxide, antimony oxide, antimony carbide, antimony wire, metallurgical grade tantalum powder, and some coffin materials.

At present, the domestic demand for tantalum niobium is 800~1000 tons, and the national production capacity is about 140~150 tons. Most of the rest of the raw materials are all dependent on African imports.

Most of the exported antimony mines in Africa are also known as “African blood mines”, which refer to war-plunging low-cost minerals that are arbitrarily harvested and dug in the African region at the expense of polluting the environment and destroying resources. African mines are affected by the instability of the regional political and economic environment and have greater volatility. Its products contain high levels of unfavorable elements such as antimony, uranium, and thorium, which have certain adverse effects on product quality and environmental protection requirements of downstream products; Moreover, the delivery period of the mine is long and the safety cannot be fully guaranteed. To this end, the International Electron Association has classified it as a source of minerals that are not allowed to enter the normal market.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality tantalum niobium products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com/ for more information.

Processing Technology of Tantalum Bar to Wire

The production of tantalum wire is usually carried out by powder metallurgy or other isostatic pressing, vacuum sintering to obtain a tantalum rod, followed by cold rolling and surface cleaning to obtain a tantalum strip, and then the wire is obtained by surface oxidation coating, stretching, pickling, water washing, and annealing. The processing process of the tantalum bar to wire includes the following steps.

Isostatic molding

The chemical composition of the tantalum powder raw material for preparing the tantalum should meet the specified requirements, and the particle size distribution should satisfy the requirement that 100% is less than 0.074 m, and the content of less than 0.038 m (400) is not less than 60%. The bar blank after press forming requires no defects on the surface, no cracks, and has a certain strength, reaching 70% of the theoretical density.

Isostatic-molding
Isostatic-molding

Vacuum sintering

Usually, the melt sintering is performed, the sintering vacuum should be less than 0.133Pa, and the highest sintering temperature should be controlled within 2600 °C. Generally, after two times of vertical melting and sintering, the relative density of the tantalum can reach about 98%, and the surface of the tantalum is required to be smooth, without cracks, melted tumor knots, and bubbling.

Cold rolling

The production of tantalum wire and the forging of tantalum bars are generally carried out by cold rolling. It can be used as a manufacturing process before die forging, or it can be directly rolled into an ingot. Roll forging is a process in which a tantalum rod is passed through a pair of rotating wrought rolls equipped with circular arc dies, and plastically deformed by means of a cavity to obtain the desired ingot.

Cold rolling
Cold rolling

Anodizing

The purpose of anodizing is to uniformly coat an oxide film on the surface of the tantalum ingot (wire). As a carrier of the lubricant, the oxide film can uniformly and firmly adhere the lubricant, which can reduce the tensile friction coefficient, ensure the surface quality of the silk, and cannot directly contact the metal and the mold, then prevent the bonding and improve the tensile performance.

The standard of the oxide film is that the adhesion is strong, the micro-tightness is firm, the color is not easy to fall off, the thickness is uniform, the insulation is good, the residual current is small, and the surface is less crystalline.

Stretching

Stretching is a major process in the production of tantalum wire. The choice of lubricant, drawing die, stretching pass and stretching speed will directly affect the quality of the wire. The stretching of tantalum is divided into the thick wire and fine wire. Solid wax is generally used as a lubricant for roughening the thick tantalum wire with an oxide film, an aqueous solution of grease soap is generally used as a lubricant when the tantalum wire with oxide film is finely drawn. The tensile die has cemented carbide and diamond, the latter is better but more expensive. The processing rate of the stretching pass depends mainly on the quality of the oxide film and the quality of the lubricant.

The surface of the wire after stretching is stuck with oil and residual oxide film, so it is necessary to clean the surface with acid and then with pure water. For the fine wire, the acidity of the pickling and the pickling time are strictly controlled. When the oxygen content and the surface brightness are good, the acidity and pickling time should be minimized.

Tantalum wire
Tantalum wire

Vacuum annealing

Annealing of the tantalum wire includes two parts, intermediate annealing and finished annealing. The purpose of intermediate annealing is to eliminate work hardening and improve the processing plasticity of the wire to continue stretching, while annealing is to achieve the desired properties of the finished product.

Tantalum has good plasticity at room temperature, and the work hardening tendency at room temperature is not large. The practice has shown that the billet produced by powder metallurgy can be processed until the total deformation rate is about 95%; the total deformation rate of the extruded billet by electron beam melting and consumable arc melting can reach more than 99%. After the recrystallization annealing, the plasticity of tantalum at room temperature is completely recovered.

Wire rewinding

In order to facilitate the material leaving the factory after the wire has been annealed, it is generally necessary to rewind on a certain winding machine. When rewinding, it is necessary to prevent the surface from being stained or scratched and to prevent twisting.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality tantalum products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com/ for more information.

Super Performances of Tantalum in the Electronics & Aerospace Industries

Tantalum has a series of excellent properties, such as high melting point, low vapor pressure, good cold processing performance, high chemical stability, as well as strong resistance to liquid metal corrosion, etc., it has important applications in high and new technology fields such as electronics, metallurgy, superconducting technology, automobile electronics, aerospace, medical treatment, and scientific research. The following is a brief introduction to the super performances of tantalum in the electronics and aerospace industries.

Electronics industry

In the electronic industry, tantalum is mainly used as tantalum capacitors, which are usually used in the form of capacitor grade tantalum powder, tantalum wire, and tantalum foil. A tantalum capacitor is one of the indispensable electronic components of radar, aerospace aircraft and missile, and it is widely used for civil use, such as mobile communication, electronic equipment, and instruments.

Tantalum Capacitors
Tantalum Capacitors

As the specific surface area of tantalum powder is large, the dielectric constant of the thin film of the dielectric body is large, so the capacitance is large, then the small large-capacity capacitors can be made. The electrolytic capacitors made of tantalum have the advantages of small size, lightweight, good reliability, wide operating temperature range, and long service life.

Tantalum electrolytic capacitors can be classified into solid electrolytic capacitors and liquid electrolytic capacitors, and they are mainly divided into two anode types: foil anode and sintered anode. Tantalum wire is used as the anode lead for both capacitors.

With the development of electronic industry, the miniaturization and high reliability of tantalum capacitors are becoming increasingly strict. At present, the international commercial specific capacity of tantalum powder has reached more than 150,000 mu.F•V/g, and the laboratory has reached 30,000 mu.F•V/g.

Tantalum is also used as a material for electron tubes. Due to its high melting point, low real gas pressure, good processing performance, small linear expansion coefficient, and good inspiratory property, tantalum is a good material for launching tube and high-power electron tube parts.

Besides the above, tantalum target is an important material for magnetron sputtering coating of electronic chips due to its high chemical stability. You may check out more information at the specialized target website.

Tantalum Target
Tantalum Target

Aerospace industry

In addition to a large number of tantalum capacitors used in the aerospace industry, tantalum is also mainly used in high-temperature alloy and tantalum matrix heat resistant alloy in the aerospace industry, especially engine. High-performance alloys such as superalloy, corrosion-resistant alloy, and wear-resistant alloy can be made by adding tantalum to nickel base, cobalt base, and iron-base alloys.

Compared with niobium superalloy, tantalum superalloy has superior performance, higher heat resistance, and greater stress load. These alloys are mainly used as heat-resistant and high-strength structural materials for supersonic aircraft, solid propellant rockets, and missiles, as well as parts for control and adjustment devices. For example, the combustion chamber of the American Ajina Spacecraft is made of ta-10w alloy, and the flame temperature is very high (up to 2760℃) when its cover is small.

Superalloy
Superalloy

The aerospace industry is the second largest user of niobium and tantalum. Niobium and tantalum alloys, especially their superalloys and heat-resistant alloys based on them, are indispensable supporting materials for hot components of aircraft jet engines, rockets, spacecraft, and other vehicles.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality tantalum products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com/ for more information.

How is Tantalum Used in the Military Industry?

The inner covering of the gun body

When gunpowder is exploded, it produces a tail flame with a temperature of 2500 ~ 3500K and a pressure of 300 ~ 800MPa. The tail flame contains such corrosive components as H2S, CO, O2, H2, H2O, N2 and powder residue particles. Therefore, the gun barrel will undergo the physical and chemical effects of high-temperature and high-pressure gunpowder gas (the thermal effect of high-temperature gas, the scouring of high-speed airflow, the corrosion of gunpowder gas residue in the bore, and the wear of high-speed moving projectile on the inner wall) when the projectile is launched. Under this working condition, the gun barrel bore will be subjected to severe ablative erosion and wear, which will lead to the change of the geometry and size of the barrel bore, which will directly affect the firing accuracy of the gun and the life of the barrel.

Therefore, the research on ablative behavior and protection of gun barrel has received extensive attention. The main considerations of gun barrel material are thermal properties, including heat resistance, thermal expansion, thermal conductivity, and thermal shock resistance; mechanical properties, including elastic modulus, mechanical strength, and hardness; chemical stability, that is, the chemical stability of materials in high temperature and corrosive atmosphere.

Gun-Barrel
Gun-barrel

Tantalum (Ta) has good physical and chemical properties. It is a high melting point (2996℃) refractory metal, with low thermal conductivity (57W/m℃), good chemical corrosion resistance (acid, salt and organic chemical corrosion resistance at high temperature) and excellent ablative resistance, as well as good plastic and toughness. Tantalum or tantalum alloy coating is considered to be an ideal coating system to replace the electroplating Cr coating for ablative and scour resistance. If the tantalum layer is to be used in the gun barrel for the purpose of gas ablation of fire retardant for a long time, the sputtering Ta layer should be mainly composed of alpha-ta with a thickness of at least 75 microns. The coating should have enough binding force with the substrate in all directions to resist the thermal shock and high shear stress in the gun firing process.

The cylindrical magnetron sputtering tantalum technology was proposed by Benet Laboratories of the United States army for the dimension characteristics of the gun barrel; Also, the trial production of cylindrical magnetron sputtering deposition technology platform for 120mm, 155mm and 105mm sputtering full-length large-caliber gun tubes were built in Waterfleet Arsenal, which was used for the magnetron sputtering full-bore tantalum plating for Abrams, Crusader, and future combat systems.

In the Bennett experiment of the US army, Vigilante et al. prepared pure tantalum ablative resistant layer in 25mm rifled gun barrel and 120mm smooth rifled gun barrel bore by using explosive spraying technology. It was found that the bonding between tantalum layer and the base metal was good, but the adiabatic shear band would appear in the base steel of the body tube and Ta-Fe brittle intermetallic compound phase would be formed.

Armor-piercing projectile

In the 1980s, a new type of warhead, the explosively formed penetrator, was successfully developed, mainly using tantalum on the butterfly bushing next to the high explosive. When the explosive is detonated, the butterfly disc morphs into a long, steady, sliver of a penetrator, accelerating towards its target.

Armor-piercing-projectile
Armor-piercing-projectile

With the development of armor materials, modern anti-armor warhead has higher and higher requirements on the materials of explosive forming munition type hood. The formation of a longer and more stable jet requires high density, high sound velocity, good thermal conductivity, and high dynamic fracture elongation. In addition, it is required that the material has a fine grain, low recrystallization temperature, certain texture, and other microstructure.

Tantalum and depleted uranium have high density, high dynamic elongation, and arson. Especially, tantalum has a high density (16.6g/cm3) and good dynamic characteristics, which is a kind of material mainly used in the research of explosive forming ammunition type. As a material of explosively formed munitions, tantalum is widely used in TOW-2B, TOW-NG, and other U.S. missiles. Ballistic experiments show that tantalum’s affinity is 30%~35% higher than that of copper, and can reach 150mm.

At present, the research of using tantalum as the coating material mainly focuses on improving the processing technology and saving the cost. Among them, the United States Army Equipment Research and Development Center (ARDEC) uses P/M method to develop explosively formed tantalum cartridge type housing; Two kinds of tantalum powders, PM2 and PM4, are pressed by static pressure, sintered, extruded and processed into blank material, and then annealed and forged by rotary forging, tantalum cartridge prepared in this way can be successfully applied to a well-shaped explosive forming projectile; German Smart-155mm end-sensitive projectile is one of the most advanced end-sensitive projectiles in the world today. The missile is made of thin-wall structure, and its sensitive device has high anti-interference ability, which can work normally in fog or the bad environment; The BONUS-155mm dexterous shell, jointly developed by the Swedish Bofors Company and the ground weapon group, has been mass-produced and is suitable for 45-caliber artillery.

Tantalum-powder
Tantalum-powder

High purity materials are required for the electrochemical cover of explosive forming. Trace elements have a great influence on the physical properties of the cover material, and ultimately affect the penetration depth of the projectile. The purity of tantalum has an influence on the strength, crystal structure and the length of the explosive forming projectile (EFP). Therefore, the purity of tantalum shall be strictly controlled in the preparation process.

Ultra-high vacuum aspirating material

Ultra-high vacuum aspirating material (tantalum alloy) is used in night vision equipment in conventional defense weapons. Using 15% tantalum as the framework and titanium as the adsorbent of hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, neon, and other gases can improve the service life of the inspiratory material. This material can be applied to the infrared camera tube in the active infrared night-vision instrument and the low-light tube in the passive low-light night vision instrument, to ensure the long-term high vacuum in the vacuum tube, so as to achieve the high efficiency, high life span and improve the definition of the night vision instrument.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality tantalum products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com for more information.

A Brief History of Tantalum

In 1801, Charles Hatchett, a British chemist, analyzed a collection of minerals preserved in British museums and discovered a new element, Columbium (later renamed Columbium), in honor of Colombia, where the ore was made. In 1802, Anders Gustav Ekberg, a Swedish chemist, crystallized tantalum from niobium in Scandinavia.

Because tantalum and niobium have very similar properties and specific gravity, many scientists at the time mistakenly believed that the two elements were the same substance. In 1844, German chemist Rosser used chemical methods to prove that tantalum and niobium are two elements.

In 1903, pure tantalum was produced for the first time. Tantalum capacitors manufactured with tantalum, with high capacity, small size, and high reliability, are still irreplaceable components in the electronics industry.

With the continuous miniaturization and portability of global electronic products since 1990, tantalum capacitors have been widely used. Today, tantalum capacitors are shipped about 100 billion times a year.

tantalum-capacitors
Tantalum Capacitors

There are three major Tantalum companies operating in the world today: the US Cabot group, the German HCST group, and China Swing Orient Tantalum Industry Co., Ltd. These three companies produce more than 80 percent of the world’s tantalum products.

Tantalum used in electronics accounts for 60% of total production. But tantalum is not just used as a capacitor. Nickel-tantalum alloy is widely used in advanced aero-engine blades.

Before 2007, the world’s major sources of tantalum were Australia and Brazil. In 2000, the world’s major producing countries produced approximately 1,100 tons of tantalum concentrate, of which Australia accounted for 45%, mainly at Greenbush and Wodgina mines, while Brazil accounted for 17%, Rwanda 12%, and Congo 9%. At the time, Congo was in the midst of a second civil war, and large numbers of rebels smuggled Congolese tantalum mines into Rwanda for export under the Rwandan name.

In 2003, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) signed a peace agreement with rebels in the east that ended a second civil war. But the rebels in eastern DRC have not really laid down their arms, and are no longer engaged in open, large-scale fighting with government forces. The rebels continue to splinter and regroup, with new rebels popping up every now and then. Congo and the surrounding great lakes countries are backward industrially, all guns and ammunition are imported, and any imports must be accompanied by foreign currency. Both the rebels and the great lakes countries are eyeing tantalum as a new source of revenue.

Tantalum has supported the fighting in eastern Congo. Subsequently, the world’s major tantalum deposits have undergone a stunning reversal. Cheap Labour in eastern Congo, using baskets and hammer-shovels, has been digging holes in droves, defeating Australian tantalum miners armed with big mining machines. Australia’s tantalum mines, unable to compete with a shoveled army of poor Congolese, went bust and quit altogether.

tantalum-mines
Tantalum-mines

In 2007, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo had the world’s largest and second-largest share of tantalum mines. On January 9, 2007, Apple’s Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone. In 2014, most of the world’s tantalum mines were exported by Rwanda and DRC, including 600 tons from Rwanda and 200 tons from DRC, accounting for more than 70% of the world’s tantalum output.

In 2010, the U.S. implemented the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform and consumer protection act, which requires U.S. companies that purchase tantalum products and other materials to investigate their supply chains and determine that the materials are not sourced from conflict zones in the democratic republic of Congo. The United States describes minerals from the eastern DRC region that have been repeatedly contested by rebels and government forces as conflict minerals.

Rwanda, Tanzania, and Bolivia are investing in the construction of tantalum and niobium smelting plants due to the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act in the US and the Conflict Minerals Regulation in the EU. It is expected that the supply of tantalum raw materials in the world, especially in Africa, will become more and tighter in the future.

Stanford Advanced Materials (SAM) is a trusted supplier of high-quality capacitor grade tantalum powdercapacitor grade tantalum wire and a wide variety of tantalum products. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com/ for more information.

Tracing Tantalum from Mine to Manufacture

tracing-tantalum

Step 1: Mining in Rwanda, Africa

Step 2: Refining in Macedonia, Greece

Step 3: Manufacturing in the USA

Step 4: Shipping from the USA

Step 5: Final Assembly in China, Asia

Step 6: Distribution to Consumers

The African country of Rwanda is the world’s biggest supplier of tantalum: a rare mineral used to make capacitors found in devices like smartphones and laptops. In 2014, most of the world’s tantalum mines were exported by Rwanda and DRC, including 600 tons from Rwanda and 200 tons from DRC, accounting for more than 70% of the world’s tantalum output.

Tantalum ore can be refined into tantalum metal and processed into various tantalum products, which are widely used in modern industry. For example, tantalum crucible is used in manufacturing super-alloys and electron-beam melting; tantalum ribbon can be used as a light source material for halogen lamp, sodium lamp, auto lamp, quartz glass lamp, etc.; tantalum plate is used in manufacturing superalloys and electron-beam melting, and so on.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality tungsten products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com for more information.

Is tantalum Toxic?

Tantalum is a shiny, silvery metal which is soft when is pure. It is almost immune to chemical attack at temperatures below 150℃. Tantalum is virtually resistant to corrosion due to an oxide film on its surface.

Applications of tantalum

Tantalum is used to manufacture surgical implants, capacitors, aircraft engines, and alloys. It is used to produce high-temperature devices because of its high melting point. The element also has application in the chemical industry because of its good corrosion resistance. It is used to manufacture refractive index glass, electron tubes, and alloys for missiles, nuclear reactors, chemical equipment, and jet engines.

However, the element is rarely added to alloys because it makes some metals more brittle. Tantalum is used to manufacture tubes because it forms oxides and nitrides that create the vacuum. In addition, it is used to manufacture special optical glasses, non-ferrous alloys for aerospace and nuclear applications, metallurgical and chemical processing equipment, high-voltage surge arresters, and more. It is also used to make circuitry for devices and computers, electrolytic capacitors, and tantalum compounds and alloys. Glass-line equipment is also manufactured. Its compounds are used to produce clips, mesh, surgical equipment, and machinery.

solid-tantalum-chip-capacitors
Solid Tantalum Chip Capacitors

The harm of tantalum

Tantalum powder is not as serious as other metals (zirconium, titanium, etc.), but it has the risk of fire and explosion.

Tantalum-related jobs often carry the risk of burns, electric shocks, eyes, and trauma. The refining process involves toxic and dangerous chemicals such as hydrogen fluoride, sodium, and organic solvents.

Toxicity

Both tantalum oxide and tantalum metal have low systemic toxicity, which may be due to their poor solubility. However, there are also skin, eye, and respiratory hazards. In alloys of cobalt, tungsten, and niobium, tantalum is considered to be the cause of pneumoconiosis and skin damage caused by hard metal dust.

Tantalum hydroxide has no toxic effect on chicken embryo, and intraperitoneal injection of tantalum oxide has no toxic effect on rats. However, when tantalum chloride has an LD50 of 38mg/kg(Ta), the compound salt K2TaF7 is about one-fourth toxic.

tantalum-chloride
Tantalum Chloride

Safety precautions

In most operations, general ventilation can maintain the dust concentration of tantalum and its compounds below the exposure limit. Flame, arc, and spark should be avoided in the area where tantalum powder is handled. If workers are regularly exposed to dust concentrations close to the critical value, regular physical examinations should be conducted, with emphasis on lung function. For operations containing tantalum fluoride and hydrogen fluoride, precautions applicable to these compounds should be followed.

Tantalum bromide (TaBr5), tantalum chloride (TaCl5) and tantalum fluoride (TaF5) shall be stored in a clearly labeled and cool, ventilated place away from compounds affected by acid or acid smoke, and the persons concerned should be reminded of the danger.

Stanford Advanced Materials supplies high-quality tantalum products to meet our customers’ R&D and production needs. Please visit https://www.samaterials.com/ for more information.