Tantalum consumption can be divided into five main sectors as follows:
Tantalum powder is the largest sector representing approximately 60-65% of total tantalum consumption, with current annual consumption of between 2.2 to 3.0 million lbs Ta per annum. Tantalum powder is used in the manufacture of tantalum capacitors.
The use of tantalum as an alloy additive currently consumes approximately 300,000 lbs Ta per annum. The use of tantalum in this application permits resistance to corrosive gases at high temperatures with specific application in the construction of combustion turbines used in the generation of electricity, and for the fabrication of components for aircraft engines.
In the oxide form, tantalum sees significant consumption in electronics, medical applications, optics, and as a spluttered film for use in integrated circuitry. Lithium tantalate is used in the fabrication of SAW filters and yttrium tantalate is used in ultra sensitive X-ray films. The total annual consumption is currently approximately 300,000 lbs Ta.
Tantalum is also used as an additive in cemented carbide formulations for the preparation of tool steels. The current consumption of tantalum carbide is approximately 330,000 lbs Ta per annum.
Tantalum Mill Products
Mill products are mainly used in:
• Sputtering as target materials
• Chemical processing for equipment
• Cathodic protection for steel structures such as bridges, water tanks
• Medical industry as suture clips and prosthetic devices for human implant
• Corrosion resistance as fasteners, i.e. screws, nuts, bolts
• High temperature areas such as furnace parts and alloys for air and land based turbines
Technical attributes of mill products:
• Thin coatings of tantalum, tantalum oxide or nitride coatings to semi-conductors.
• Superior corrosion resistance – equivalent in performance to glass.
• Immune to the attack by body fluids.
• Melting point (above 3000°C), with protective atmosphere or high vacuum required.
• Alloys containing 2-12% tantalum offer high temperature reliability, resistance to corrosion by hot gases
After tantalum powder, mill products represent the 2nd largest consumer of tantalum. This market sector generally addresses the requirement for tantalum products in chemical processing equipment such as tank liners, heat exchange tubing, rupture disks, piping and valves. In addition, tantalum wire is utilized in the fabrication of tantalum anodes for capacitors; plus tantalum trays and heat shields used in furnaces for anode sintering.