Tantalum is a silvery, sturdy and hard metal. Its durability makes it a favorite material for capacitors in radios, cell phones, medical equipment and even toys.
What makes tantalum exceptional as a capacitor is its ability to absorb and dampen high-frequency electrical noise, which can damage circuits.
At one point, tantalum was used for filaments in lightbulbs. The versatile metal was replaced by tungsten, which has a higher melting point. The melting point of tantalum is 5,463 degrees Fahrenheit, while the melting point of tungsten is 6,192 F, making tungsten better for high-temperature applications.
Tantalum was discovered in 1802 by the Swedish scientist Anders Ekeberg, who named it after a Greek hero who was forever punished by having water drain away when he went to drink it and having tree branches arch above his reach when he tried to eat the fruit. This was because tantalum seemed impervious to acid and even aqua regia, which is used to dissolve gold. Indeed, tantalum is vulnerable to only a few chemicals.
Tantalum has an atomic radius of 200pm, an atomic weight of 180.9479 and a Mohs hardness of 6.5. Its atomic number is 73, which means it has 73 protons in its nucleus.