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MEI Online: Electrometallurgy: Latest News: February 19th 2003


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:: Tantalum Update  

Tantalum Australia NL, which is sponsoring Boston University in the development of the solid oxygen-ion-conducting membrane (SOM) tantalum-extraction process, has made an important breakthrough. According to the company, a process that continuously feeds the SOM reactor with tantalum oxide has been developed. This allows the continuous deposition of tantalum metal onto the cathode in the reactor, and has enabled the elimination of a separation step that was required to remove other elements from the reactor melt prior to deposition.

Tantalum Australia says that electron-microprobe wave-dispersion analysis of the tantalum metal produced via the process shows the metal to be 99.9% pure and comparable to commercially available tantalum metal produced by conventional means. Tantalum Australia says that the next stage of its funded research programme will involve the refining and consolidation of all the advances that have been made in the SOM project, and the use of a tantalum concentrate rather than the oxide as the feedstock. It will also apply for a patent on the refined process with respect to tantalum and other metals that are covered by the research funding. This phase of the project is scheduled to start in March 2003, and preliminary results are anticipated before June 2003.

Following the successful completion of this stage of the process, the research programme will then focus on the scaling-up of the laboratory process to produce significantly increased amounts of tantalum metal.



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