In Q4 2020 alone, Apple sold over 81.8 million iPhones, a new record. If you do the math, that boils down to roughly one million iPhones a day.
It’s even crazier to think about all the components that go into making a smartphone, such as chips and diodes.
One essential component of many electronic devices today is the tantalum capacitor. Already over your head?
A tantalum capacitor is exactly what it sounds like: a capacitor whose anode uses tantalum. Don’t dig out your notes from your sophomore year science class. Read on instead and let me help break that down for you.
What Is a Capacitor?
A capacitor is a tool or device that is made of at least two plates (conductors) which are separated by an insulator. It can passively store electric energy inside an electric field and release it.
They can work in a circuit to help control the flow of the charge, operating almost like a small battery. Here’s the difference: batteries use chemicals to store their electrical charge and discharge the charge over an extended period of time. Capacitors, on the other hand, such as the ones used in a camera flash, can release the charge in a matter of moments.
What Is Tantalum?
Tantalum is a rare, blue-grey metal (atomic number 73). It is highly resistant to corrosion and is often part of alloys.
The melting point of tantalum is extremely high: 3017 °C (5462.6 °F). It also conducts heat and electricity very well. These qualities and more give tantalum a wide range of practical applications!
Tantalum is often found as tantalum chloride, which easily converts to tantalum pentoxide. This tantalum pentoxide (also known as tantalum oxide) is what is often used in capacitors.
What Is a Tantalum Capacitor?
Now that we know a little bit about what tantalum is and what a capacitor is, let’s talk about what a tantalum capacitor is!
Tantalum capacitors are one of the most common practical applications of tantalum. Tantalum capacitors are widely used for electronics of all kinds, such as computers, cell phones, and video game systems. But they are used for submarines and have outer space applications as well!
Why Choose a Tantalum Capacitor?
Now, as you may know, capacitors don’t have to use tantalum – other metals are possible, such as aluminum. So why choose tantalum? Here’s a starting list.
First, tantalum capacitors can be made from tantalum powder. This allows tantalum capacitors to be much smaller than other kinds.
Second, due to the metal’s extreme durability, it can operate normally at a wide range of temperatures (-50 °C to 100 °C, approximately -58 °F to 212 °F). Other metals can operate at these temperatures. Tantalum is better though because its performance does not suffer at the extreme ends.
Third, and on a similar note, the tantalum capacitors are highly resistant to both strong acids and bases. This, again, gives it a wider range of applications.
Fourth, tantalum capacitors are great conductors of electricity, even when operating at higher frequencies.
If all this has intrigued you and you are thinking about purchasing some tantalum pentoxide of your own, Stanford Advanced Materials tantalum pentoxide can be a great place to start!
Ready to Learn More?
Tantalum capacitors are one of the most essential parts of the electronics industry, and they are fascinating to study too! Thanks for reading this article and be sure to comment your thoughts below if you want to see more like this!
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