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Tantalum: Discovering History

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In the mid-17th century, a very heavy black mineral (tantalum 16.68 g/cm) found in North America was deposited in the British Museum. About 150 years later, until 1801, British chemist Charles Hatchett (1765-1847) accepted the analysis of the ore at the British Museum. A new element was discovered and renamed Columbium (later niobium), in memory of Colombia, where the mineral was first discovered.


In 1802, Swedish chemist Anders Gustav Ekaberg (A.G. Ekaberg, 1767-1813) analyzed a mineral in the Scandinavian Peninsula (Nb-Ta ore), made its acid form fluorinated compound salt, recrystallized, and discovered a new element, which he named Tantalus after Tantalus, son of Zeus in Greek mythology.( Tantalum).


Ta and Ta were once thought to be the same element because of their very similar properties. In 1809, William Hyde Wollaston, a British chemist, compared the oxides of tantalum and columbium, and though he had different densities, he thought they were exactly the same substance.


By 1844, Heinrich Rose (1795-1864), a German chemist, refuted the conclusion that tantalum and Columbium were the same elements and determined by chemical methods that they were two different elements. He named the two elements Niobium and Pelopium respectively by his daughter Niobe and son Pelops of Tantalos in Greek mythology.


In 1864, Christian Wilhelm Blomstrand, Henry Edin St. Claire de Ville and Louis Joseph Troost clearly proved that tantalum and niobium were two different chemical elements, and established chemical formulas for some related compounds.


In the same year, Tantalum chloride was heated in hydrogen to produce tantalum metal for the first time by reduction. Tantalum metals made in the early stage contain more impurities. Werner von Bolton first made pure tantalum in 1903.


Scientists first used stratified crystallization to extract tantalum (potassium heptafluorotantalate) from niobium (potassium pentafluorooxyniobate monohydrate). This method was discovered in 1866 by De Marinia. Today scientists use solvent extraction for tantalum solutions containing fluoride.

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