Tantalum was discovered in 1802. But this discovery did not receive universal acceptance. Many believed that the finding was an allotrope of niobium, its twin element that is located directly above tanatalum on the periodic table. It wasn't until 1844 when the first positive evidence came to support this new element.

Tantalum is a shiny, grey, but ductile metal that resembles platinum. In fact, tantalum is often used as an economical substitute in applications normally requiring platinum metal. Tantalum is not readily attacked by chemicals and forms an oxide film on its surface.

Tantalum occus in nature in the minerals columbite and tantalite (Col-tan) and euxenite. Niobium and tantalum concentrates are found in Brazil, Canada, Africa, particularly Congo, Australia and Spain.

Tantalum is also obtained as a by product in the extraction of tin from mineral deposits in Malaysia and Nigeria.


Niobium is also found in the same ores, therefore, since the chemistry of tantalum and niobium are chemically very similar, it is difficult to separate the two. A solvent extraction procedure yields 98% pure niobium oxide in one phase and a 99.5% pure tantalum oxide in another.

Commercial application of tantalum includes:

BCIT Chemistry Resource Center