The main use of tantalum, such as metal powder, is in the production of electronic components, mainly capacitors and high power resistors. Tantalum electrolytic capacitors exploit the tendency of tantalum to form a protective oxide surface layer, by using tantalum powder, pressed into granules, as a “plate” of the capacitor, the oxide as a dielectric, and an electrolytic solution or a solid conductor as another “plate”. Because the dielectric layer can be very thin, a high capacity can be obtained in a small volume. Due to the advantages of size and weight, tantalum capacitors are attractive for mobile phones, personal computers, automotive electronics and cameras.
Tantalum is also used to produce a variety of alloys that have high melting points, strength and ductility. Combined with other metals, it is also used in the manufacture of carbide tools for metalworking and in the production of superalloys for reactor components, chemical processing equipment, nuclear reactors and missile parts. . Because of its ductility, tantalum can be drawn into fine wires or filaments that are used to evaporate metals such as aluminum. As it resists attack by body fluids and is non-irritating, tantalum is widely used in the manufacture of surgical instruments and implants. For example, porous tantalum coatings are used in the construction of orthopedic implants because of the ability of tantalum to form a direct bond with the hard tissue.
Tantalum is inert against most acids with the exception of hydrofluoric acid and hot sulfuric acid, and hot alkaline solutions also cause tantalum corrosion. This property makes it a useful metal for chemical reaction vessels and hoses for corrosive liquids. Heat exchanger coils for the steam heating of hydrochloric acid are made from tantalum. Tantalum has been widely used in the production of ultra-high frequency electronic tubes for radio transmitters. Tantalum is capable of capturing oxygen and nitrogen by forming nitrides and oxides and thus helps maintain the high vacuum required for the tubes.
The high melting point and the oxidation resistance lead to the use of the Tantalum metal in the production of vacuum furnace parts. Tantalum is extremely inert and is therefore formed into a variety of corrosion resistant parts, such as thermowells, valve bodies and tantalum fasteners. Due to its high density, the formed charge and the explosively formed indenter liners were constructed of tantalum. Tantalum greatly increases the penetration capabilities of a charge formed because of its high density and high melting point. It is also sometimes used in precious watches, for example. of Audemars Piguet, F.P. Journe, Hublot, Montblanc, Omega and Panerai.
Tantalum is also highly bioinert and is used as an orthopedic implant material. The high stiffness of tantalum makes it necessary to use it as a highly porous foam or scaffold with a lower stiffness for hip replacement implants to avoid stress. Because tantalum is a non-ferrous, non-magnetic metal, these implants are considered acceptable for patients undergoing MRI procedures. The oxide is used to make a high refractive index glass for camera lenses.