Tantalum is a soft, ductile, grey-blue metal with a high melting point. The metal is highly resistant to chemical attack and has a high electrical capacitance. Its physical properties make it ideal for numerous applications, particularly in the electronics and aerospace industries.
Tantalum was discovered in 1802 by Anders Gustaf Ekeberg. The
metal was named after Tantalus from Greek mythology.
The use of tantalum has expanded dramatically since the 1940s as a result of major advances in electronics. The principal source of tantalum until the 1990s was tin mining, where tantalum was extracted as a by-product. By the 1990s the main source of tantalum came from the extraction of specific tantalum ores in different parts of the world.
Consumption of tantalum increased significantly in the second half of the 1990s with the demand for capacitors required for products in the rapidly growing consumer electronics market.
The market for tantalum declined rapidly during the 2008 global economic crisis but has since improved following growth in consumer electronics and aerospace industries, and as a result in a reduction of available stockpiles of tantalum.
Concerted global action by a range of companies in the supply chain via the EICC, including Global Advanced Metals, has led to a range of measures designed to eliminate conflict-mined material. This in turn has led to an increase in demand for tantalum products that are known to be derived from sustainable and ethical sources.