Tellurium is a brittle silvery-white metal that has a similar appearance to tin. It is a chemical element represented by the atomic number 52 and the chemical symbol Te. It can be found in free form in nature, but is also found together with gold and in other minerals. Most tellurium is produced as a by-product of copper and lead mining. The largest producers of this metal are the United States, Peru, Japan and Canada. It is a rare element and is considered to be one of the rarest stable elements on Earth. This means that worldwide production of tellurium is quite low. Despite this fact, there are a number of important uses of tellurium.
Uses of tellurium
- The largest use of tellurium is in iron, copper and lead alloys. The addition of this metal has a number of advantages such as providing added strength and durability in lead alloy as well as making stainless steel and copper more machinable.
- A compound made from cadmium and tellurium, known as cadmium telluride, is used in the construction of solar panels. A similar compound with added zinc is used in X-ray detectors.
- It is alloyed with cadmium and mercury to create a semiconductor material that is infrared sensitive.
- Tellurium suboxide is used in rewritable media (ReWritable CD, DVD and Blu-Ray).
- Lead telluride is used in thermoelectric devices (bismuth telluride is also used for this purpose) and in infrared detectors.
- It can also used in phase change memory chips, as a color in ceramics, to increase optical refraction in fiber optics and in the process of rubber vulcanization.
- Tellurite agar is used in the pathology industry to identify the pathogen responsible for diphtheria.
- Selenium and tellurium are used with barium peroxide in delay powder for blasting caps.