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Metallic chemical element, one of the transition elements, chemical symbol Ta, atomic number 73. It is a dense, hard, unreactive, silvery gray metal with an extremely high melting point (5,425 °F [2,996 °C]). Relatively rare, it occurs native in a few places. It is difficult to separate from niobium, the element above it in the periodic table, with which it shares many properties. The most important uses are in electrolytic capacitors, corrosion-resistant chemical equipment, dental and surgical instruments, tools, catalysts, components of electron tubes, rectifiers, and prostheses. Its compounds are relatively unimportant commercially; tantalum carbide is used in machine tools and dies.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on tantalum, visit Britannica.com.