Characteristics: A brittle, mildly toxic, rare, silver-white lustrous metalloid which looks similar to tin. Tellurium is chemically related to selenium and sulfur. It is an easily pulverized metalloid occasionally found in native form, as elemental crystals. Tellurium is far more common in the universe as a whole than on Earth comparable to that of platinum partly due to its high atomic number and also due to the element being lost to space as a gas during the hot-nebular formation of the planet. Insoluble in water, but soluble in sulfuric acid, nitric acid, potassium hydroxide and potassium cyanide solutions. It is a p-type semiconductor and its conductivity is sensitive to light exposure. When in its molten state, tellurium is corrosive to copper, iron and stainless steel.
Derivation: The principal source of tellurium is from anode sludges which are produced during the electrolytic refining of blister copper. It is also a component of dust resulting from blast furnace refining of lead. Treatment of 500 tons of copper ore typically yields one pound of tellurium. Tellurium is produced mainly in the United States, Peru, Japan and Canada.
Tellurium is used to color ceramics; addition into glass and glass fibers for telecommunications; oxidizers in the delay powder for blasting caps; vulcanization of rubber; medical research.
Hazards: Tellurium and tellurium compounds are considered to be mildly toxic and need to be handled with care and not reported as carcinogenic. Toxic by inhalation with a tolerance of 0.1 mg/m3 of air.
For more information about Tellurium, visit the Technical Data page.
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