Tantalum
Tantalum is named from the Greek Tantalos, the father of Niobe (mythology) and was discovered in 1802. Many chemists thought that niobium and tantalum were identical elements until 1844 when it was shown that niobic and tantalic acids were two different acids. Tantalum occurs principally in the mineral columbite-tantalite. Tantalum ores are found in the Republic of Zaire, Brazil, Mozambique, Thailand, Portugal, Nigeria and Canada. Several methods are used to commercially produce the element, including electrolysis of molten potassium fluotantalate, reduction of potassium fluotantalate with sodium, or reacting tantalum carbide with tantalum oxide. Tantalum is a gray, heavy and very hard metal. When pure it is ductile and can be drawn into fine wire which is used as a filament for evaporating metals such as aluminum. Tantalum is used to make a variety of alloys with desirable properties such as high melting point, high strength and good ductility. It is also used to make electrolytic capacitors and vacuum furnace parts which accounts for about 60% of its use. The metal is also widely used to fabricate chemical process equipment, nuclear reactors, aircraft and missile parts ad surgical appliances.