52Te Tellurium

Year Discovered


Discovered By

Baron Franz Joseph Muller von Reichenstein of Austria/Hungary

Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.


Named from the Latin word meaning “earth,” tellurium is a metalloid element that has a very metallic silvery-white appearance. It is very brittle and is not reactive with water and some acids. It does react with air. It is used in semiconductors, electronics, ceramics and catalysts, especially in the petroleum industry. It is used in alloys, especially with steel and copper to improve ductility, and with lead to prevent corrosion. It has an odd side effect in humans––ingesting even a very small amount will cause terrible garlic breath and body odor.

Biological Benefits

Tellurium has no known biological use.

Role in Life Processes

No known benefits for life processes in plants and animals.


Tellurium is found in most copper ores and is chiefly obtained as a by-product of copper processing. Gold and silver form compounds with tellurium––the best known is calaverite (gold telluride). Other tellurium-bearing minerals include tellurite (tellurium oxide) and sylvanite. Tellurium is mined in Japan and Canada.