Tantalum (Ta) is an unsung hero in modern metallurgy. First discovered by the Swedish chemist Anders Ekeberg in 1802, this versatile metal has become essential to numerous industries over the years.
Raw tantalum rarely occurs in nature. Instead, it is typically found in the ore columbite-tantalite (usually referred to as coltan). Once extracted, pure tantalum is a hard blue-gray lustrous metal.
Since its discovery, tantalum has been used in a number of applications. In the 21st century, it has become a crucial element in the electronics industry, with over 75% of electronics containing tantalum in some form. In particular, engineers have been able to take advantage of some of tantalum’s properties to make capacitors and other components smaller and more efficient.
Properties of Tantalum
Tantalum has several unique characteristics that have led to its increased use in the 21st century. It is a highly stable metal that is almost immune to chemical degradation at temperatures lower than 302 °F (159 °C). In addition, it exhibits high levels of corrosion resistance when it comes into contact with air and moisture.
Like most metals, tantalum forms a thin but dense protective oxide layer (Ta2O5) when exposed to the atmosphere. This oxide layer firmly adheres to the surface of the metal, acting as a barrier which protects the underlying metal from further corrosion.
Tantalum belongs to a class of metals known as refractory metals, which are defined by their strong resistance to heat and wear. It has a melting point of 5,463 °F (2,996 °C), the fourth highest of all metals.
In terms of mechanical properties, tantalum is highly ductile, making it suitable for processes such as bending, stamping, and pressing. When combined with other metals, it can produce alloys with enhanced strength and higher melting points.
Common Uses of Tantalum
Tantalum is generally used in applications that require increased heat, corrosion, and chemical resistance. Below is a list of the commonly available forms of tantalum and their most common uses.
Sheet/Plate – Tantalum’s high melting point makes it ideal for high-temperature applications. In sheet form, it is commonly used in linings for columns, vessels, tanks, heat exchangers, and vacuum furnace parts. Thin sheets can also be used for anti-corrosion cladding, repairs, and reinforcement of existing
Rod/Wire – Tantalum is also known for its biocompatibility. In other words, it is a nonirritating element that is not affected by bodily fluids. This property makes tantalum wires a popular material for prosthetic implants and other medical devices. In addition, tantalum wires are commonly used in vacuum furnace heating elements, chlorinator springs, light bulb elements, and chemical processing equipment.
Powder – In its powder form, tantalum is used to produce electrical circuits, capacitors, and resistors, primarily because its superior capacitance allows it to hold more charge per gram than other materials. This has made it possible to develop smaller electrical parts and, by extension, smaller electrical devices.
Tube – Because of their heightened resistance to corrosion, tantalum tubes are often employed in the chemical, petrochemical, and pharmaceutical industries for the processing of compounds that may weaken or destroy other metals. Columns, stacks, and piping are just some of the products constructed from tantalum tubing in these industries.
Strips and foils – Similar to sheets, tantalum strips and foils can be used as liners in vacuum furnaces and heat insulation applications. Thin-gauge tantalum strips can also be deep drawn to manufacture crucibles, cups, and other inert laboratory equipment.
Niobium – the 41st element on the periodic table– is a soft, grey, crystalline metal used in a variety of applications from steel production to hypoallergenic jewelry. The metal was originally discovered by British chemist Charles Hatchett in 1801 as he examined American minerals from a collection in the British Museum. Hatchett named this element columbium, after Christopher Columbus. Through the years most people now refer to this element as Niobium. As tantalum and niobium are often found together and for many years were indistinguishable from each other, the name niobium comes from Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus from ancient Greek mythology.
Niobium mineral can be found in niobite, euxenite, pyrochlore, and niobite-tantalite. In pyrochlore niobium is often associated with carbonates. Vast deposits of niobium-rich minerals can be found in Russia, Nigeria, Zaire, Canada, along with the leading producer, Brazil. Annual production is over 50,000 tons of oxide.
Pure niobium is extracted from the mineral by digesting with hydrofluoric acid. The niobium aqueous solution is separated from other compounds by liquid-liquid extraction. The purified niobium is then precipitated from the aqueous solution as niobium hydroxide by an alkaline solution such as ammonia. After calcining the hydroxide is turned into niobium penta-oxide (pentoxide, Nb2O5). The niobium oxide can be converted to the metal form by aluminum thermite reduction. The metal is often further purified in an electron beam (EB) furnace to yield niobium ingots. Mill processes turn the ingot to plate, sheet, tube, and wire. Superconductor grade niobium (RRR 300) has very low impurities, especially gases, and can be made by repeatedly refining the metal in a high vacuum EB furnace.
Properties of Niobium
Niobium is a lustrous, ductile metal. It features a high melting point (2,477° C), lower density than similar refractory metals, high corrosion resistance (but lower than tantalum), and good cold working properties.
Following is a summary of its properties:
Element Category — Transition Metals
Phase — Solid
Symbol — Nb
Number — 41
Density — 8.57 grams per cubic centimeter
STD Atomic Weight — 92.90638(2) g/mol
Crystal Structure — Body Centered Cubic
Melting Temperature — 2750 K, 2477° C, 4491° F
Boiling Point — 5017 K, 4744° C, 8571° F
Electrical Resistivity — (0 °C) 152 nΩ·m
Thermal Conductivity — (300 K) 53.7 W·m−1·K−1
Thermal Expansion — 7.3 µm/(m·K)
Industrial uses for niobium stretch as far back as the early 1900s, and more benefits are being discovered and applied for this valuable element as time goes on.
Niobium is most commonly used to create alloys. Even with as little as 0.01% niobium, the strength of steel is markedly improved. These alloys are often found in oil and gas facilities and pipelines. Niobium superalloys, such as nickel niobium, have a demonstrable ability to maintain stability, making them highly desirable in rockets and jet engines as well as land-based turbines in power plants.
Niobium titanium alloys are superconductive under certain low temperature range. These alloys are used to create superconducting magnets used in MRI scanners.
Further uses for niobium alloys include:
Arc-welding rods for stabilized grades of stainless steel
Nuclear reactor control rod due to its high temperature and corrosion resistance, and low neutron absorption at cross-section
Crucibles for synthetic diamond manufacturing
Sodium vapor lamb, and LCD back lighting
Jewelry: brilliant colors can be created on niobium surface
Superconductor, supercollider and particle accelerator using ultra-high purity metals and alloys
Optical coating and camera lens
Lithium niobite for wave guide in communications
Thin film solar cell
Admat offers a range line of pure, alloy, and oxide niobium products including:
Superconductor grade (RRR300)
Niobium 1% Zirconium
Niobium 47% Titanium
Niobium 50% Titanium
Niobium 55% Titanium
Niobium 10% hafnium 1% titanium
Metal and alloy forms
Flat: plate, sheet, foil, strip
Round: rod, wire
Sputtering target – flat or tube/pipe
If you’re interested in discussing how niobium can be used for your application, please feel free to contact our team of experts directly.
If you buy tantalum, you have surely noticed that tantalum prices are climbing. That’s because demand for the versatile gray metal is quickly escalating. The latest forecasts from industry leaders predict a 4-7 year increase in demand and higher market prices for the ore, capacitor powder, melt stock and mill products.
As smartphone and electronics usage grows in third world nations, an increased requirement of tantalum capacitors will drive powder sales. Turbine engine demand in the Asian-Pacific region will require significant volumes of tantalum for their nickel based super-alloys. These factors combined with growth in the chemical processing, defense and semiconductor markets will likely sustain high tantalum demand and continue to drive ore prices.
Some large tantalum users have already begun protecting themselves by entering into blanket contracts for as long as 24 months. These agreements allow suppliers such as Admat to purchase the raw materials at today’s market price. Finished goods are still shipped and invoiced when the customers releases them.
Another method to cut costs is by shifting the machining or fabrication steps to the tantalum supplier. By reducing product weight by purchasing lighter finished or nearly finished parts a substantial savings could be realized. Tantalum suppliers usually have efficient recycle systems in place which means the turnings or trimmings have a higher scrap value as compared to selling the material to traders yourself.
There is really no way to avoid the higher market prices of tantalum over the next few years, but by taking a few extra steps and working with your supplier, there is the opportunity of putting your business in a better position than the competition. If your business is interested in exploring what options are available to limit your exposure to the higher prices, now is the time to contact your supplier. To discuss your options with Admat, please call 484-322-2091.
Let’s face it, if you’re buying tantalum, it’s probably because you have no choice. Your application likely demands one of the robust characteristics of the metal, such as the unmatched corrosion resistance, or the magnetic shielding properties, or maybe it’s the extremely high melting temperature. Regardless of why you need it, tantalum is always expensive when compared to metals such as steel, copper or even titanium.
One of the simplest ways to cut tantalum expenses is to improve your yields and reduce the amount of scrap you generate.
Why order material in typical rectangular sheet sizes and cut circles out yourself?
Why order plates oversized so you can machine to tolerances yourself?
Why machine parts from square bricks when you can order near finished custom shapes?
Admat specializes in custom shapes and sizes. Whether it’s round, oval, or an octagon with a square hole, Admat can machine or cut to your requirements. Because the scrap is kept internal to the manufacturing plant, it maintains a higher value and therefore saves you money. Tight tolerances are nothing new to Admat. We will review your requirements and quote you a price on a product that we stand behind.
Speak with our sales department today and find out how Admat can improve your tantalum yields.
Hafnium is element 72 on the periodic table. It is a tetravalent transition metal colored silver gray and is often found in zirconium, its sister element. Discovered in 1923 in Copenhagen, it was named after the city’s Latin name, Hafnia.
Hafnium is used in many industries and hi-tech applications. Some of these include: coatings of nuclear materials in power plants, alloying agents in superalloys, coatings on cutting tools and optics, and in the production of semiconductors. Current demand for Hafnium is just 75 to 80 tons a year. Primary sources for Hf raw materials come from Australia, South America, and China. Supply of the material is estimated at 67 to 72 tons per year. A portion of the superalloy demand is fulfilled with scrap and recycled material.
The largest market for hafnium is the superalloy industry. It is estimated that about 55% of demand comes from producers of alloys which are most commonly used in turbine blades for either aircraft engines or land based turbines in power plants. Because engineers are always seeking new space age materials to improve performance, hafnium is expected to see significant growth in this industry. The metal has been shown to allow aircraft engines to run hotter while being safer and using less fuel. Additionally alloys such as C-103*, a Nb-Hf-Ti alloy is commonly used to make rocket nozzles as it stands up to high temperatures and corrosive chemicals.
Another 15% of Hf demand comes from nuclear power plants which use Hf to coat their nuclear fuel. Because the material is able to absorb neutrons, it is ideal for such applications. There are a significant number of nuclear power plants throughout the world, and that number is ever increasing. Hf demand will be strong for this market as the power plants will utilize the material in both the nuclear reactor and the power generating turbine blades used to create electricity. Constant maintenance of these plants will assure the demand for years to come.
There are smaller applications as well. Roughly 8% of demand is for hafnium welding tips for use with plasma torches. Because Hf sheds electrons and can create an arc, it is an ideal material to use in place of tungsten.
Together, demand for hafnium chloride (HfCl4), hafniumoxide> ( HfO2)and pure hafnium for chemical vapor deposition (CVD) and physical vapor deposition (PVD) totals about 22% of the material demand. This accounts for a combination of end uses which include hard and protective coatings on cutting tools and optics, blue lasers for use in DVD players, and high-k dielectrics, where Hf is ideal to improve the miniaturization and reliability of electronic components.
For most electronic applications hafnium with .2 to .5 percent zirconium is used effectively. For select applications customers may require hafnium with less than .1 percent zirconium content. This grade is priced at a premium because of the difficulty and high cost to produce such high purity Hf.
If your business is seeking a reliable partner for the supply of high purity Hf target plates and discs, contact Admat Inc. (www.admatinc.com), a stocking supplier of electronic grade hafnium targets.
*C-103 is a trademark of Allegheny Technologies Inc.
When you call your local metal supplier and ask for a coil of tantalum sheet or a plate of niobium, do they ask you about your application? Do they ask you what type of machining you will be performing or if you’re drawing parts from this material? These are examples of important questions to ask.
If you’re a new customer to Admat, we always ask these questions. Not to be nosy or to take up your time. But, because tantalum and niobium are unique metals which can be manufactured in multiple fashions. After all tantalum and niobium are expensive and we don’t want to sell you something that will not work in your application. For example, a customer using material for stamped parts will want softer metal that is able to be drawn without the surface becoming grainy or tearing, while someone using the material for shielding may want the material stiffer. Some customers use the material for semiconductors and they want exceptional purity of 99.999% pure while others are lining a chemical tank and 98% pure is less expensive and ideal for their job.
We can supply material in multiple tempers, with “as rolled” surfaces, or conditioned surfaces. Admat’s extensive experience with these metals can help you decipher what your material requirements should be, in most cases, just by asking a few questions. Still it is always a good idea to get a basic understanding of the typical standards yourself.
There are so many different specifications of tantalum that one can easily become confused. It’s important to be educated regarding specifications and grades of tantalum and how they apply to the materials.
Admat Incorporated of Norristown, PA has further enhanced their product portfolio to include machined and fabricated parts. Since 1997, Admat has been supplying Tantalum powders and mill products to a variety of industries.
Over the years, Admat has become one of the largest sources of refractory metals in the US. Now they have partnered with a number of skilled and specialized fabricators to offer custom machined parts.
Admat’s management team has the most experience in development, engineering, sales and services in the refractory metal industry. Through the years their team has developed powders for specialty alloys and 3D printing, precision wire products for medical implants, penetrators for missile systems, explosively bonded metals for corrosion prevention, and cutting edge products for semiconductor production, just to name a few.
Eric von Spreckelsen, Admat’s Director of Sales and Operations stated, “All this experience has given Admat a portfolio that is unmatched. No matter what you require, a tube, a rod, a plate or a complex fabricated part, we are the best place to call.” Metals include tantalum, niobium, tungsten, molybdenum and titanium. Their technical know-how allows them to precisely and efficiently manage the raw material production and the subsequent fabrication operations to provide customers the highest quality product in the market today at very competitive prices.
Allen Chang is Admat’s Engineering Manager. Over the past three years he has developed systems and procedures to ensure 100% compliance to specification. Allen directly oversees all fabrication and machining operations and is an asset to the machined parts business at Admat.
Whether your business needs tantalum flanges, molybdenum crucibles, electron beam welded assemblies, threaded rods, or tungsten machined parts, Admat should be your first call. Contact us today!
Admat Inc., Norristown, PA USA announced today a partnership with Nisomet GmbH of Switzerland to market their mill products in Germany and Switzerland. Admat is a leading supplier of tantalum and niobium metals and alloys in various mill forms and powder. Nisomet is a provider of nickel based alloys and specialty metals including titanium.“Admat is well known for our superior metal products and an industry leading level of customer service in the United States.
For our first expansion into European markets, it was important for us to find the right partner who has the same commitments, reputation and expertise. We strongly believe we have found those qualities in Nisomet and we welcome them as our partner,” said Eric von Spreckelsen, Director of Sales at Admat.
“Nisomet has nearly 25 years of experience in the field of nickel based and titanium metals and alloys. We provide our customers a wide selection of metals and further support those products through our engineering services. Recently we expanded our core business by aggressively developing new markets for tantalum and are very happy to have a strong partner like Admat supporting us with their excellent service and product qualities”, said Matthias Treib, Director of Sales at Nisomet GmbH.
Tantalum is expensive. For most users of Tantalum, it is likely the most expensive material they buy. It’s for that reason that so many companies source their material from smaller mills overseas to avoid paying the higher prices charged by the big American mills. But with so many companies selling tantalum, how can you tell a reputable company from a fly by night re-seller? Is there a way to ensure they are producing product using the best metallurgy practices? And how can you be sure these companies will stand behind their products when something goes awry? To be perfectly honest, you can’t really be sure of these things without performing significant due diligence such as costly plant audits, independent third party testing, detailed engineering studies and utilizing years of experience. That’s what Admat brings to the table.
Admat’s management team has 50 years of tantalum experience, more than anyone else in the industry. What makes that knowledge so valuable is that it’s a blend of domestic sales and manufacturing know-how combined with years of overseas production and engineering expertise. This gives us the unique ability to understand the culture of both our customers and our factories.
We understand your application and what material properties are important to you. Our engineers can adapt production techniques to produce product that is engineered specifically for your application. Whether it is high purity plates with fine grain for semiconductor production, grain stabilized rods for vacuum furnace parts, or isotropic strip for stamped parts, Admat has the experience and know how to help your business.
We have multiple contracted production plants throughout Asia. Each of these plants has undergone multiple on site audits and their range of products have undergone studies which include testing at independent labs. Each plant’s production process is unique and therefore each has specific strengths and weakness. For example, some plants melt large diameter ingots that are rolled down directly to finished product, where others use small diameter ingots which require upset forging prior to rolling.
This photo shows grain flow in tantalum rods. Although on the outside, both rods would look identical to anyone, the metallurgy on the inside is completely different. Depending on your application, this could completely change how the material performs. Matching your unique material requirements with the right production method is an example of the value that Admat’s experience provides our customers.
Since 1997, Admat’s customers have come to expect a high level of quality and service. It is our goal to provide your company with the highest quality products available and to do so at a price that makes your business more competitive in the marketplace.
Call us today and let us show you how Admat can strengthen your raw materials position. Contact us for more information
Admat Inc, a leading supplier of tantalum and niobium mill products, announced today the introduction of high purity 300mm tantalum coilsets to their semiconductor product line. These coilsets will be used in select physical vapor deposition (PVD) chambers and are available in a wide range of purities, the most common being 99.99% and 99.995% pure tantalum.
Admat will offer these parts to sputtering target fabricators who can perform final surface treatments and pair them with the required sputtering targets for end users.
The company’s Sales Director, Eric von Spreckelsen stated, “I am very pleased to finally introduce this product to our thin films portfolio. These coilsets have undergone a lengthy development process with extensive testing, both internally and in the field. Our customers will be very pleased with both the performance and value of this product”.
With each coilset, Admat will provide GDMS chemistry certifications and full CMM reports are available upon request. Select coilsets will be included in their inventory stocking program.