Tantalum pentoxide, also known as tantalum(V) oxide, is the inorganic compound with the formulaTa 2O 5. It is a white solid that is insoluble in all solvents but is attacked by strong bases and hydrofluoric acid. Ta 2O 5 is an inert material with a high refractive index and low absorption (i.e. colourless), which makes it useful for coatings. It is also extensively used in the production of capacitors, due to its high dielectric constant.
The tantalum and niobium hydrogenflorides are then removed from the aqueous solution by liquid-liquid extraction using organic solvents, such as cyclohexanone or methyl isobutyl ketone. This step allows the simple removal of various metal impurities (e.g. iron and manganese) which remain in the aqueous phase in the form of fluorides. Separation of the tantalum and niobium is then achieved by pH adjustment. Niobium requires a higher level of acidity to remain soluble in the organic phase and can hence be selectively removed by extraction into less acidic water.
The pure tantalum hydrogen fluoride solution is then neutralised with aqueous ammonia to give hydrated tantalum oxide (Ta2O5(H2O)x), which is calcinated to tantalum pentoxide (Ta2O5) as described in these idealized equations:
Natural pure tantalum oxide is known as the mineral tantite, although it is exceedingly rare.
Tantalum oxide is frequently used in electronics, often in the form of thin films. For these applications it can be produced by MOCVD (or related techniques), which involves the hydrolysis of its volatile halides or alkoxides:
At least 2 polymorphs are known to exist. A low temperature form, known as L- or β-Ta2O5, and the high temperature form known as H- or α-Ta2O5. The transition between these two forms is slow and reversible; taking place between 1000-1360 °C, with a mixture of structures existing at intermediate temperatures. The structures of both polymorphs consist of chains built from octahedral TaO6 and pentagonal bipyramidal TaO7 polyhedra sharing opposite vertices; which are further joined by edge-sharing. The overall crystal system is orthorhombic in both cases, with the space group of β-Ta2O5 being identified as Pna2 by single crystal X-ray diffraction.
A high pressure form (Z-Ta2O5) has also been reported, in which the Ta atoms adopt a 7 coordinate geometry to give a monoclinic structure (space group C2).
Purely amorphous tantalum pentoxide has a similar local structure to the crystalline polymorphs, built from TaO6 and TaO7 polyhedra, while the molten liquid phase has a distinct structure based on lower coordination polyhedra, mainly TaO5 and TaO6.
The difficulty in forming material with a uniform structure has led to variations in its reported properties. Like many metal oxides Ta2O5 is an insulator and its band gap has variously been reported as being between 3.8 and 5.3 eV, depending on the method of manufacture. In general the more amorphous the material the greater its observed band gap.
These observed values are significantly higher than those predicted by computational chemistry (2.3 - 3.8 eV).
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