Chemical, Pharmaceutical, and Medical Industries
Resistance to high temperatures and chemical corrosion make tantalum, and tantalum alloys materials of choice for chemical, medical, pharmaceutical and nuclear plant processing equipment. Tantalum operates safely at high temperatures and chemical concentrations while minimizing product contamination.
Tantalum has been evaluated in over 2000 reagents and is only corroded by less than 50 of them, namely hydrofluoric acid, solutions containing fluorides in excess of about 10ppm, fuming sulfuric acid, fuming nitric acid and caustic soda. Tantalum can resist the corrosion of sulfuric acid and nitric acid at the temperature up to 200ºC (400ºF). Combining high strength with excellent thermal conductivity, so tantalum and its alloys are widely used for heat exchangers, surgical implants, condensers, evaporators, thermocouple pockets and bursting discs.
Most tantalum is used in the pure form, especially for lining steel reaction vessels, cladding thermocouple pockets and agitators. However, due to the high cost, solid material is seldom used for the larger component parts. Larger components such as vessel linings and agitators are clad with thin tantalum sheets. Because tantalum is easy to fabricate, parts can be designed with thin cross-sections and in intricate shapes, such as spinnerets and impellers.
Tantalum alloy with 2-12% Tungsten, though slightly more expensive, does have a 25% higher tensile strength. Thus thinner sections can be used especially in heat exchanger tubing. Alloying tantalum with tungsten improves corrosion resistance in sulfuric acid at the temperature as high as 200ºC (400ºF) given high pressure steam.
Electronics, Automation, Defense and Energy Industries
The electronics industry is the single largest consumer of tantalum nowadays, accounting for approximately 60% of total demand. Tantalum’s major application in the electronics industry is in the manufacture of capacitors, devices that regulate the flow of electricity within an integrated circuit. Tantalum capacitors are found in many everyday devices such as mobile phones, video cameras, and laptop computers.
Another fast growing application for tantalum is as an alloy in the manufacture of turbine blades for power stations and jet engines – tantalum improves structural integrity of the blades at high temperatures enabling the turbines to operate at higher temperatures, thereby increasing their fuel efficiency.
Tantalum can be alloyed with carbon, nitrogen, niobium, tungsten, molybdenum, titanium and many other metals. Tantalum is used to make vacuum furnace parts, besides electrolytic capacitors. The metal is also widely used to fabricate chemical process equipment, nuclear reactors, aircraft, and missile parts.
Optical and Tooling Industries
Tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5 ) is a dielectric material and is used to make capacitors. It is also used to make special glass with a high index of refraction for optical and camera lenses. Another major application is to manufacture lithium tantalate in SAW (Surface Acoustic Wave) devices. A composite consisting of tantalum carbide (TaC) and graphite, with a melting point of 3,738°C (6,760°F), is one of the hardest materials known and is used on the cutting edges of high-speed machine tools.