tantalum (Ta)chemical element, bright, very hard, silver-gray metal of Group 5 (Vb) of the periodic tablecharacterized by its high density, extremely high melting point, and excellent resistance to all acids except hydrofluoric at ordinary temperatures.

Closely associated with niobium in ores and in properties, tantalum was discovered (1802) by the Swedish chemist Anders Gustaf Ekeberg and named after the mythological character Tantalus because of the tantalizing problem of dissolving the oxide in acids. Due to the great chemical similarity of niobium and tantalum, the establishment of the individual identities of the two elements was very difficult. Tantalum was soon identified with niobium (then called columbium), but in 1844 the German chemist Heinrich Rose demonstrated their distinct characters. Although some of the impure metal was isolated earlier, the Russian chemist Werner Bolton prepared (1903) the first ductile tantalum, which was used briefly as incandescent lamp-filament material.

Tantalum is a chemical element with the symbol Ta and atomic number 73. Previously known as tantalium, it is named after Tantalus, a villain from Greek mythology. Tantalum is a rare, soft when pure, blue-gray, lustrous transition metal that is highly corrosion-resistant.

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