What’s Fun About…?: Tantalum through Uranium

Tantalum (Ta)

  • It is corrosion resistant and highly conductive. This makes it useful for electronics.
  • One of its most common uses is in capacitors in electronics.
  • Aircraft industries use it.
  • It has the third highest melting point (below tungsten and rhenium).
  • Surgical instruments use tantalum.
  • Artificial joints use it because it does not react with bodily fluids.

Technetium (Tc)

  • Powdered technetium will ignite.
  • All isotopes are radioactive.
  • It is artificially produced.
  • Adding it to steel highly enhances its corrosion resistance. Since it is radioactive, this is only useful for steel in certain applications.
  • There has never been any technetium found naturally on Earth, however it has been shown to be produced in stars.
  • The gamma rays produced from technetium-99m (“m” for metastable) are used for medical diagnostic tools.
  • It’s a powerful superconductor.

Tellurium (Te)

  • It is a semiconductor that responds to sunlight.
  • It is primarily used for manufacturing films in solar cells.
  • Even a tiny amount in air will cause one’s breath to smell like garlic.
  • Fungi use it to create amino acids.
  • Tellurium is highly toxic.
  • It burns bluish-green.
  • When copper and stainless steel is alloyed with it, they become more easily workable.
  • Sulfuric acid becomes less corrosive when it contains tellurium.
  • CDs and DVDs with tellurium enable them to be rewritten.

Tennessine (Ts)

  • It is a halogen.
  • Tennessine was produced by bombarding berkelium with calcium ions.

Terbium (Tb)

  • Terbium oxide looks like chocolate powder.
  • It’s soft enough to be cut with a knife.
  • Terbium cations are used to detect microbes.
  • Alloyed with iron, it can provide metallic films for recording data.
  • Terbium alloyed with neodymium and dysprosium produces magnets built for high temperatures.

Thallium (Tl)

  • Thallium iodide and thallium bromide are used in infrared detection devices.
  • Its oxide produces glass that melts at low temperatures (about 150°C; compare to 1400-1600°C for most glass).
  • Thallium sulfate was used as a rat poison and insecticide until it was discontinued for its toxicity to humans.

Thorium (Th)

  • It is used for nuclear energy due to the decay of its isotopes. It eventually decays into an isotope of uranium that is used as nuclear fuel.
  • Thorium oxide is used in camera lenses, high temperature crucibles, and cracking of petroleum products.
  • Its most stable isotope has a half-life of 14 billion years.
  • It alloys magnesium to increase its strength in high temperatures.

Thulium (Tm)

  • It is used in laser for surgical applications.
  • Thulium cations emit a strong blue luminescence under ultraviolet light. Because of this, it is used in euro banknotes to protect against counterfeiting.
  • It is a dopant in yttrium aluminum garnets (YAG) for lasers.

Tin (Sn)

  • Bronze is made when tin is alloyed with copper.
  • Tin salts provide conductive coatings on glass.
  • It does not corrode in water.
  • When bent, the deformation of its crystalline structure emits a creaking sound.
  • Below 13.2°C (56°F), tin turns into its powdery alpha allotrope.
  • Alpha tin is a semiconductor.
  • It has a low melting point of 232°C (450°F).
  • Tin can be used as cladding to prevent metals from corroding.
  • Superconductive magnets can be made with a tin-niobium alloy.

Titanium (Ti)

  • It is stronger than most common steel alloys while being much lighter than steel.
  • Implants are made with titanium because of its corrosion resistance.
  • Titanium osseointegrates. This means that implants (in this case, usually dental) will fuse with the bones to which it is attached.
  • Aircraft use it for its light weight and high strength-to-weight ratio.
  • Wheelchairs use titanium for its light weight.
  • Titanium oxide is used in sunscreen to prevent ultraviolet light from reaching the skin.

Tungsten (W)

  • Tungsten carbide is used mostly in mining, construction, and machining parts.
  • It does not oxidize in air.
  • Of all metals, it has the highest melting point of 3410°C (6170°F).
  • The most familiar use of it is in incandescent bulb filaments.
  • It is the hardest pure metal.
  • It has the highest tensile strength of all the metals (400 GPa, or 58 Mpsi). Also, its tensile strength at temperatures above (1650°C, or 3000°F) is higher than the rest of the metals.
  • Tungsten yarn is used to reinforce composites.

Uranium (U)

  • Glass can be colored green with uranium. It glows under black light, but not because of its radioactivity.
  • One ton of uranium can produce as much energy as 16,000 tons of coal or 80,000 barrels of oil.
  • Over 20% of the energy in the US is produced by nuclear power plants.
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