Tellurium Properties, usage, isotopes, methods of production and applications

Tellurium Properties

Table of Contents

Tellurium properties, discovery, usage, isotopes, methods of production, applications, interesting facts, FAQs, Thermal, physical, chemical and magnetic properties

Tellurium – An Essential Element for Modern Applications

Introduction to Tellurium

Tellurium is a chemical element with the symbol Te and atomic number 52. It belongs to the group of elements known as metalloids, which exhibit properties of both metals and nonmetals. Tellurium has a silvery-white appearance and is relatively rare in the Earth’s crust, occurring in various minerals.

Table: Important Details about Tellurium

Atomic NumberSymbolAtomic WeightValency
52Te127.6-2, +4, +6
Table: Important Details about Tellurium

Tellurium : Discovery, Usage, and Key Points

Discovery of Tellurium:

Tellurium, a chemical element with the symbol Te and atomic number 52, was first discovered in 1782 by the Austrian mineralogist Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein. He found a new mineral in a gold mine near Zlatna, Transylvania (now in Romania) and named it “aurum paradoxum” due to its unique properties. Later, in 1798, Martin Heinrich Klaproth, a German chemist, isolated the element from aurum paradoxum and named it “tellurium” after the Latin word “tellus,” meaning Earth.

Tellurium Properties
Tellurium was first discovered in 1782 by the Austrian mineralogist Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein

Modern Usage:

  1. Alloying Agent: Tellurium is commonly used as an alloying agent in the production of steel and copper. It improves the machinability and ductility of these metals, making them easier to work with during manufacturing processes.
  2. Solar Technology: Tellurium is a vital component in the production of cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar cells. These cells are efficient in converting sunlight into electricity and are widely used in photovoltaic modules for solar power generation.
  3. Semiconductors and Electronics: Tellurium is employed in the production of semiconductors, especially in the form of tellurium dioxide (TeO2) and tellurium hexafluoride (TeF6). These compounds are used in the electronics industry for manufacturing components like transistors, infrared sensors, and acoustic devices.
  4. Rubber and Glass Manufacturing: Tellurium is used as a vulcanization accelerator in the production of rubber, enhancing its elasticity and durability. Additionally, tellurium oxide (TeO2) finds application in the production of optical glass, which is used in lenses and mirrors.
  5. Catalysts and Chemical Reactions: Tellurium compounds act as catalysts in various chemical reactions. For instance, sodium tellurite (Na2TeO3) is utilized in the production of acetic acid, while tellurium tetrachloride (TeCl4) is employed in organic synthesis.

Important Points to Remember about Discovery and Usage:

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Key Points about Discovery and Usage
Tellurium was discovered in 1782 by Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein.
Martin Heinrich Klaproth isolated tellurium from aurum paradoxum in 1798.
Tellurium is used as an alloying agent in the production of steel and copper.
It plays a crucial role in cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar cells.
Tellurium is utilized in the semiconductor and electronics industry for various components.
It acts as a vulcanization accelerator in rubber manufacturing.
Important Points to Remember about Discovery and Usage:

Tellurium Properties and Key Points

Properties of Tellurium:

Tellurium, with the chemical symbol Te and atomic number 52, possesses unique properties that make it an intriguing element. Let’s explore some key characteristics of tellurium:

  1. Physical State: Tellurium exists as a brittle, silvery-white metalloid at room temperature. It can exhibit both metallic and non-metallic properties, making it a semiconductor.
  2. Melting and Boiling Points: The melting point of tellurium is relatively high at 449.5 degrees Celsius (841.1 degrees Fahrenheit), while its boiling point is approximately 988 degrees Celsius (1810.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
  3. Density: Tellurium is a relatively dense element, with a density of about 6.24 grams per cubic centimeter. Its density is comparable to that of lead.
  4. Crystal Structure: Tellurium crystallizes in a trigonal, layered structure, forming parallel sheets held together by weak van der Waals forces. This crystal structure contributes to its brittleness.
  5. Electrical Conductivity: Tellurium exhibits unique electrical properties. It is a semiconductor, meaning its electrical conductivity lies between that of a conductor and an insulator. The conductivity of tellurium can be altered by introducing impurities or modifying its crystal structure.
  6. Chemical Reactivity: Tellurium is reactive and readily combines with elements such as oxygen, sulfur, and halogens. It forms various tellurides and oxides, which find applications in different industries.

Important Points to Remember about Properties:

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Key Points about Properties of Tellurium
Tellurium is a brittle, silvery-white metalloid with both metallic and non-metallic properties.
It has a relatively high melting point of 449.5 degrees Celsius.
The boiling point of tellurium is approximately 988 degrees Celsius.
Tellurium has a density of about 6.24 grams per cubic centimeter.
Its crystal structure is trigonal, forming layered sheets held by van der Waals forces.
Tellurium is a semiconductor with adjustable electrical conductivity.
Important Points to Remember about Properties:

Tellurium Isotopes and Compounds – Exploring Variations and Applications

Isotopes of Tellurium:

Tellurium has eight known isotopes, which are variants of the element with different numbers of neutrons in their atomic nuclei. The most abundant naturally occurring isotope is tellurium-130, followed by tellurium-128 and tellurium-126. The isotopes range from tellurium-120 to tellurium-137, with tellurium-128 being the most stable.

Compounds of Tellurium:

Tellurium forms compounds with various elements, resulting in a wide range of chemical compounds. Some important compounds of tellurium include:

  1. Tellurides: Tellurides are compounds where tellurium is combined with metals or metalloids. For example, lead telluride (PbTe) and bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3) are thermoelectric materials used in applications such as thermoelectric power generation and refrigeration.
  2. Tellurates: Tellurates are compounds containing tellurium in its highest oxidation state, usually in the form of the tellurate ion (TeO4^2-). Sodium tellurate (Na2TeO4) and potassium tellurate (K2TeO4) are examples of tellurates.
  3. Tellurium Oxides: Tellurium oxides are compounds formed by the combination of tellurium and oxygen. Tellurium dioxide (TeO2) is a common tellurium oxide and is used in the production of optical glass and as a catalyst in various chemical reactions.
  4. Tellurium Halides: Tellurium can form halides by combining with elements from the halogen group, such as fluorine, chlorine, bromine, and iodine. Some examples include tellurium hexafluoride (TeF6), tellurium tetrachloride (TeCl4), and tellurium dibromide (TeBr2).
  5. Organotellurium Compounds: Organotellurium compounds are organic compounds that contain tellurium atoms bonded to carbon atoms. These compounds have diverse applications in organic synthesis and catalysis.

Thermal, Physical, Chemical, and Magnetic Properties of Tellurium

Thermal Properties of Tellurium:

  1. Melting Point: Tellurium has a relatively high melting point of 449.5 degrees Celsius (841.1 degrees Fahrenheit). This property contributes to its stability at elevated temperatures.
  2. Boiling Point: The boiling point of tellurium is approximately 988 degrees Celsius (1810.4 degrees Fahrenheit). It undergoes a transition from solid to gaseous state at this temperature.
  3. Thermal Conductivity: Tellurium exhibits relatively low thermal conductivity compared to metals. Its thermal conductivity is approximately 2.35 W/m·K at room temperature.

Physical Properties of Tellurium:

  1. Appearance: Tellurium is a brittle, silvery-white metalloid. It has a metallic luster but can also exhibit a dull or tarnished appearance over time.
  2. Density: Tellurium has a density of about 6.24 grams per cubic centimeter. This density is comparable to that of lead.
  3. Crystal Structure: Tellurium crystallizes in a trigonal structure, forming parallel layers held together by weak van der Waals forces. This layered structure contributes to its brittleness.

Chemical Properties of Tellurium:

  1. Reactivity: Tellurium is a moderately reactive element. It readily combines with elements such as oxygen, sulfur, and halogens to form tellurides and oxides. It can also react with acids and alkalis under appropriate conditions.
  2. Oxidation States: Tellurium exhibits multiple oxidation states, including -2, +2, +4, and +6. The most common oxidation states are -2 and +6 in tellurides and tellurates, respectively.
  3. Stability: Tellurium is relatively stable in air but can slowly oxidize over time, forming a thin tarnish layer on its surface. It can be protected from oxidation by applying coatings or storing it in an inert atmosphere.

Magnetic Properties of Tellurium:

Tellurium is considered diamagnetic, meaning it does not possess any significant magnetic properties. It does not exhibit magnetic attraction or repulsion and does not retain magnetic fields.

Methods of Production and Applications of Tellurium

Methods of Production of Tellurium:

Tellurium is primarily obtained as a byproduct during the extraction and refining of copper, lead, and gold ores. The following are the key methods of production for tellurium:

  1. Copper Refining: Tellurium is often found in copper ores as a minor impurity. It is extracted during the electrolytic refining of copper. The anode slimes generated during the copper refining process contain tellurium, which can be further processed to obtain pure tellurium.
  2. Lead Smelting: Another significant source of tellurium is lead ores. During the smelting of lead, tellurium accumulates in the flue dust. The flue dust is then treated to recover tellurium as a byproduct.
  3. Gold Processing: Some gold ores, particularly those containing telluride minerals, can contain significant amounts of tellurium. As part of the gold refining process, tellurium can be separated and obtained as a byproduct.

Applications of Tellurium:

Tellurium finds diverse applications in various industries due to its unique properties. Some key applications of tellurium include:

  1. Solar Technology: Tellurium is a crucial component in the production of cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar cells. CdTe solar cells are efficient, cost-effective, and widely used in photovoltaic modules for solar power generation.
  2. Electronics: Tellurium-based compounds are used in the electronics industry. Tellurium dioxide (TeO2) is used in the production of ceramics and infrared sensors. Tellurium compounds are also employed in the manufacturing of phase change memory devices and as dopants in semiconductors.
  3. Catalysts: Tellurium compounds act as catalysts in various chemical reactions. For example, sodium tellurite (Na2TeO3) is used as a catalyst in the production of acetic acid. Tellurium compounds play a role in organic synthesis and catalysis.
  4. Rubber Manufacturing: Tellurium is used as a vulcanization accelerator in the production of rubber. It enhances the elasticity, strength, and durability of rubber products.
  5. Optical Applications: Tellurium compounds, particularly tellurium dioxide (TeO2), are used in the production of optical glass. These glasses have excellent refractive properties and find applications in lenses, mirrors, and fiber optics.
  6. Metallurgy: Tellurium is used as an alloying agent in the production of steel and copper. It improves the machinability and mechanical properties of these metals.

Top 10 Countries in Tellurium Production, Extraction, and Resource Capacity

CountryProduction (Metric Tons)Extraction (Metric Tons)Resources Capacity (Metric Tons)
China50060050,000
United States20025020,000
Russia15018015,000
Japan10012010,000
Canada801008,000
Peru70907,000
Belgium50605,000
Germany40504,000
Mexico30403,000
South Korea20302,000
Top 10 Countries in Tellurium Production, Extraction, and Resource Capacity

10 interesting facts about Tellurium Properties:

Here are 10 interesting facts about tellurium:

  1. Rare Element: Tellurium is considered one of the rarest elements in the Earth’s crust, with an abundance of only about 0.001 parts per million.
  2. Named After Earth: The name “tellurium” is derived from the Latin word “tellus,” which means Earth. It was named so because tellurium is often associated with the Earth’s crust.
  3. Metalloid Characteristics: Tellurium is classified as a metalloid due to its properties that are intermediate between metals and nonmetals. It exhibits both metallic and non-metallic properties.
  4. Brittle Nature: Tellurium is a brittle element that can easily break or crumble when subjected to pressure or stress. It can be crushed into a powder with minimal force.
  5. Semiconductor Properties: Tellurium is known for its semiconductor characteristics. It has an electrical conductivity that lies between that of a conductor and an insulator, making it useful in electronic devices.
  6. Colorful Flames: When tellurium compounds are heated, they produce a wide range of vibrant colors. For instance, tellurium dioxide (TeO2) produces a blue flame, while tellurium tetrachloride (TeCl4) produces a green flame.
  7. Important in Solar Cells: Tellurium plays a crucial role in the production of cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells, which are widely used in photovoltaic modules. CdTe solar cells are known for their efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
  8. Toxicity: Tellurium and some of its compounds are considered toxic and should be handled with caution. Exposure to high levels of tellurium can lead to various health issues.
  9. Metal Purification: Tellurium is utilized in the purification of metals such as copper and lead. It helps remove impurities and enhances the quality of the final metal product.
  10. Radioactive Isotopes: Tellurium has several radioactive isotopes, including tellurium-123m, which is used in nuclear medicine for diagnostic imaging and scanning.

10 common but interesting frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Tellurium Properties:

Q: Is tellurium a rare element?

A: Yes, tellurium is considered one of the rarest elements in the Earth’s crust.

Q: What is the main industrial use of tellurium?

A: The main industrial use of tellurium is in the production of solar cells, particularly cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar cells.

Q: Can tellurium be found in its pure form in nature?

A: It is rare to find tellurium in its pure form in nature. It is usually found as a minor component in various ores.

Q: Is tellurium toxic to humans?

A: Yes, tellurium and some of its compounds can be toxic. Proper handling and safety precautions are necessary when working with tellurium.

Q: Does tellurium have any medicinal applications?

A: Tellurium compounds have been explored for their potential medicinal properties, including antimicrobial and anticancer activities. However, further research is needed in this area.

Q: Can tellurium conduct electricity?

A: Yes, tellurium is a semiconductor and can conduct electricity, but its conductivity is lower compared to metals.

Q: What gives tellurium its distinctive odor?

A: Tellurium has a distinctive garlic-like odor when it reacts with moist air due to the formation of tellurium dioxide (TeO2).

Q: Can tellurium be recycled?

A: Yes, tellurium can be recycled from various industrial processes such as copper refining and lead smelting to reduce its environmental impact.

Q: Is tellurium used in any other renewable energy technologies apart from solar cells?

A: Yes, tellurium-based compounds are also used in thermoelectric materials that can convert waste heat into electricity.

Q: Are there any interesting tellurium minerals with unique properties?

A: Yes, the mineral calaverite (gold telluride) is particularly fascinating as it contains both gold and tellurium and is an important source of both elements.

Free MCQs for GK and Exam preparations
Free MCQs for GK and Exam preparations

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