Tellurium (pronEng|tɪˈlʊəriəm/, /tɛl-) is a chemical element that has the symbol Te and atomic number 52. A brittle silver-white metalloid which looks like tin, tellurium is chemically related to selenium and sulfur. Tellurium is primarily used in alloys and as a semiconductor.


Tellurium is extremely rare, one of the nine rarest metallic elements on earth. It is in the same chemical family as oxygen, sulfur, selenium, and polonium (the chalcogens).

When crystalline, tellurium is silvery-white and when it is in its pure state it has a metallic luster. This is a brittle and easily pulverized metalloid. Amorphous tellurium is found by precipitating it from a solution of tellurous or telluric acid (Te(OH)6). However, there is some debate whether this form is really amorphous or made of minute crystals.


Tellurium is a p-type semiconductor that shows a greater conductivity in certain directions which depends on atomic alignment. Chemically related to selenium and sulfur, the conductivity of this element increases slightly when exposed to light (photoelectric effect).

It can be doped with copper, gold, silver, tin, or other metals. When in its molten state, tellurium is corrosive to copper, iron, and stainless steel.

Tellurium gives a greenish-blue flame when burned in normal air and forms tellurium dioxide as a result.

Metal alloys cite web | title = Mineral Yearbook 2007: Selenium and Tellurium | first = Micheal W. | last = George| publisher = United States geological Survey | date = 2007| url =]
*It is mostly used in alloys with other metals. It is added to lead to improve its strength and durability, and to decrease the corrosive action of sulfuric acid.
*When added to stainless steel and copper it makes these metals more workable. It is alloyed into cast iron for chill control.

Other uses:
* Used in ceramics.
* It is used in chalcogenide glasses.
* Tellurium is used in blasting caps
* Organic tellurides have been employed as initiators for living radical polymerisation and electron-rich mono- and di-tellurides possess antioxidant activity.

High purity metalorganics of both selenium and tellurium are used in the semiconductor industry, and are prepared by adduct purification. [doi|10.1016/0022-0248(88)90613-6 Journal of Crystal Growth Volume 93, Issues 1-4 , 1988, Pages 744-749] [US patent|5117021 Method for purification of tellurium and selenium alkyls]

Semiconductor and electronic industry uses:

*Tellurium is used in the media layer of several types of rewritable optical discs, including ReWritable Compact Discs (CD-RW), ReWritable Digital Video Discs (DVD-RW) and ReWritable Blu-ray Discs ( [ See here] ).

*Tellurium is used in the new phase change memory [ chips] developed by Intel. Also [ see here] .

*Bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3) is used in thermoelectric devices.

*Tellurium is used in cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar panels. NREL lab tests using this material achieved some of the highest efficiencies for solar cell electric power generation. [ First Solar Inc.] started massive commercial production of CdTe solar panels in recent years, significantly increased tellurium demand. If some of the cadmium in CdTe is replaced by zinc then CdZnTe is formed which is used in solid-state x-ray detectors.

*Alloyed with both cadmium and mercury, to form mercury cadmium telluride, an infrared sensitive semiconductor material is formed. Organotellurium compounds such as dimethyl telluride, diethyl telluride, diisopropyl telluride, diallyl telluride and methyl allyl telluride are used as precursors for MOVPE growth of II-VI compound semiconductors. Diisopropyl telluride (DIPTe) is employed as the preferred precursor for achieving the low temperature growth of CdHgTe by MOVPE.


Tellurium (Latin "tellus" meaning "earth") was discovered in 1782 by the Hungarian Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein (Müller Ferenc) in Nagyszeben (now, Sibiu) Transylvania. In 1789, another Hungarian scientist, Pál Kitaibel, also discovered the element independently, but later he gave the credit to Müller. In 1798, it was named by Martin Heinrich Klaproth who earlier isolated it.

Tellurium was used as a chemical bonder in the making of the outer shell of the first atom bomb. The 1960s brought growth in thermoelectric applications for tellurium, as well as its use in free-machining steel, which became the dominant use.


With an abundance in the Earth's crust even lower than platinum, tellurium is, apart from the precious metals, the rarest stable solid element in the earth's crust. Its abundance in the Earth's crust is 1 to 5 ppb, compared with 5 to 37 ppb for platinum. By comparison, even the rarest of the lanthanides have crustal abundances of 500 ppb.

The extreme rarity of tellurium in the Earth's crust is not a reflection of its cosmic abundance, which is in fact greater than that of rubidium [] , even though rubidium is ten thousand times more abundant in the Earth's crust. Rather, the extraordinarily low abundance of tellurium on Earth results from the fact that, during the formation of the Earth, the stable form of elements in the absence of oxygen and water was controlled by the oxidation and reduction of hydrogen. Under this scenario elements such as tellurium which form "volatile hydrides" were severely depleted during the formation of the Earth's crust through evaporation. Tellurium and selenium are the heavy elements most depleted in the Earth's crust by this process.

Tellurium is sometimes found in its native (elemental) form, but is more often found as the tellurides of gold (calaverite, krennerite, petzite, sylvanite, and others). Tellurium compounds are the only chemical compounds of gold found in nature, but tellurium itself (unlike gold) is also found combined with other elements (in metallic salts). The principal source of tellurium is from anode sludges produced during the electrolytic refining of blister copper. It is a component of dusts 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 US, Canada, Peru, and Japan. [ See here] .

Commercial-grade tellurium is usually marketed as minus 200-mesh powder but is also available as slabs, ingots, sticks, or lumps. The year-end price for tellurium in 2000 was US$14 per pound. In recent years, tellurium price was [ driven up] by increased demand and limited supply, reaching as high as US$100 per pound in 2006. [ See also here] .

:"See also: Telluride, Colorado, "


Tellurium is in the same series as sulfur and selenium and forms similar compounds. A compound with metal or hydrogen and similar ions is called a telluride. Gold and silver tellurides are considered good ores. Compounds with tellurate ions complexes TeO42- or TeO66- are known as tellurates. Also tellurites TeO32-. Also tellurols –TeH, named with prefix tellanyl- or suffix -tellurol.:"See also: "


There are 30 known isotopes of tellurium with atomic masses that range from 108 to 137. Naturally found tellurium consists of eight isotopes (listed in the table to the right); three of them are observed to be radioactive. 128Te has the longest known half-life, 2.2×1024 years, among all radioactive isotopes.Fact|date=November 2007


Tellurium and tellurium compounds should be considered to be mildly toxic and need to be handled with care.

Acute poisoning is rare.cite web
last = Harrison
first = W
authorlink =
coauthors = S Bradberry, J Vale
title = Tellurium
work =
publisher = International Programme on Chemical Safety
date = 1998-01-28
url =
format = HTML
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-12
] Tellurium is not reported to be carcinogenic.

Humans exposed to as little as 0.01 mg/m3 or less in air develop "tellurium breath", which has a garlic-like odor. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Tellurium
work =
publisher = Los Alamos National Laboratory
date = 2003-12-15
url =
format = HTML
doi =
accessdate = 2007-01-12
] The garlic odor that is associated with human intake of tellurium compounds is caused from the tellurium being metabolized by the body. When the body metabolizes tellurium in any oxidation state, the tellurium gets converted into dimethyl telluride. Dimethyl telluride is volatile and produces the garlic-like smell. Even though the metabolic pathways of tellurium are not known, it is generally assumed that they resemble those of the more extensively studied selenium, because the final methylated metabolic products of the two elements are similar.


External links

* [ – Tellurium]
* [ USGS Mineral Information on Selenium and Tellurium]
* [ Selenium Tellurium Development Association]
* [ Comprehensive Data on Tellurium]

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  • Tellurium — Tel*lu ri*um, n. [NL., from L. tellus, uris, the earth.] (Chem.) A rare nonmetallic element, analogous to sulphur and selenium, occasionally found native as a substance of a silver white metallic luster, but usually combined with metals, as with… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Tellurĭum — (lat.), Maschine zur Versinnlichung der bei der täglichen Rotation und dem jährlichen Umlauf der Erde um die Sonne eintretenden Erscheinungen, besonders des durch den Parallelismus der Erdachse bedingten Wechsels der Jahreszeiten. Ein sehr… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Tellurium — (von/lat. tellus ‚(Mutter) Erde‘) steht für: den lateinischen Namen eines chemischen Elements, siehe Tellur eine Planetenmaschine, siehe Orrery Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unters …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Tellurium — Tellurium, so v.w. Tellur …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Tellurĭum — Tellurĭum, ein Apparat, durch welchen der Lauf der Erde um die Sonne, u. die Richtung der Erdachse während dieses Laufes, wovon die Jahreszeiten abhängen, so wie der Lauf des Mondes um die Erde dargestellt wird. Zugleich können durch den Apparat… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Tellurium — Tellurĭum (lat.), mechan. Lehrmittel zur Veranschaulichung der Bewegung der Erde um die Sonne …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Tellurium — Tellurium, neulat., mechanische Vorrichtung, um die Bewegung der Erde um die Sonne u. die damit zusammenhängenden Erscheinungen zu erklären …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • tellurium — Symbol: Te Atomic number: 52 Atomic weight: 127.60 Silvery metalloid element of group 16. Eight natural isotopes, nine radioactive isotopes. Used in semiconductors and to a degree in some steels. Chemistry is similar to sulphur. Discovered in… …   Elements of periodic system

  • tellurium — metallic element, named by German chemist and mineralogist Martin Heinrich Klaproth (1743 1817) from L. tellus (gen. telluris) earth (see TELLURIAN (Cf. tellurian)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • tellurium — [te loor′ē əm, təlo͞or′ē əm] n. [ModL: coined (1798) by M. H. Klaproth (1743 1817), Ger chemist, for element discovered (1783) by F. J. M. von Reichenstein, Austrian mineralogist < L tellus, earth (see TELLURIAN) + IUM, in contrast to URANIUM] …   English World dictionary

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