Term: tantalum (Ta) (older name tantalium)
Literally meaning: “pertaining to Tantalus”
Origin: Anc Greek
According Greek mythology, Tantalus was the son of Zeus and king of Sipylos (Phrygia) untill he stole nectar and Ambrosia to take to his people (according Pidar) or he decided to test the gods’ observation by killing his son Pelops and serving him to them. His punishment was to be in Tartarus(underworld) thirsty and hungry forever. Whenever he tried to drink , although he had to stand knee deep in water, water flowed from away him. Over his head hanged fruit, but whenever he reached for it, the wind blew the fruit beyond his reach. Tantalus was the father of Niobe and Pelops. His daughter, Niobe, married with Theban king Amphion by whom she had fourteen children (seven doughters and seven sons). In a ceremony in honor of Leto Niobe mocked Leto, who only had two children: god Apollo and goddess Artemis. Leto in retaliation sent her children in order to slaughter all of Niobe’s children. At the sight of his dead sons, Amphion commited suiside. Then Niobe turned to stone and from the rock formed a stream from her ceaseles tears a symbol of eternal mourning.
Tantalum was discovered by Sweedeish chemist Anders Gustaf Ekeberg (1767-1813) in 1802, in minerals from Sweeden and Finland and named it Tantalum because of its high resistance to absorb acids even when immersed in them. Ekeberh wrote:
“ this metal I call tantalum … partly in allusion to its incapacity, when immersed in acid, to absorb and be saturated”. In 1809, Willian Hyde Wollaston (1766-1828) by mistake claimed that tantalum was the same as niobium, which had also been discovered in 1802. In 1846, German chemist Heinrich Rose (1795-1864) finally proved that tantalum is a separate element found together with nioboum and Pelopium (children of mythological Tantalus).
Tantalum is a chemical element with atomic number 73 and atomic mass 180.94788. It has a silver color and a high resistance to corrosion. Its physical and chemical properties resembles niobium. Tantalum is used in the electronics industry and to make alloys to increase strength and corrosion resistance. The metal is used also in surgical instruments and implants, as it causes no immune response and in nuclear reactors.