Anders Ekeberg of Sweden
Not necessary for life.
Named for the father of Niobe in Greek mythology, tantalum is a hard, shiny, grayish-blue metal that is very stable, almost impervious to air, water and all but a few acids. It has the third highest melting point of all elements, and its primary use is in capacitors for electronic applications, and for vacuum furnace parts. Its immunity to body fluids make tantalum popular for surgical use, such as surgical tools, and in replacing bone or torn tissue. It is used for metal skull plates and fiber meshes to help mend torn nerves and muscles. It also is used in alloys that have high melting points and great strength. Tantalum alloys are used in a variety of high-stress applications, such as nuclear reactors, cutting tools, missiles, aircraft and chemical processing equipment. A carbide compound of tantalum is one of the hardest substances known. Tantalum compounds are used in the special glass used in camera lenses.
Tantalum has no known biological use.
Role in Life Processes
No known benefits for life processes in plants and animals.
Tantalum is chiefly obtained as a by-product of tin processing, although it is also mined from the minerals columbite, tantalite and samarskite. Other tantalum-bearing minerals include ferrotantalite, manganotantalite and microlite. Tantalum and niobium are almost always found together, and are recovered from pegmatite veins in granite intrusions or from placer deposits (deposits from rivers or glaciers). Tantalum is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo (top producer), Brazil, Rwanda, Nigeria, and China.