Alan Luedeking writes: "I noted with interest Andy Lustig's
tongue-in-cheek suggestion of using tantalum for coins. A
few years ago I did a laser alignment training for Cabot Corp
in Pennsylvania where tantalum is 'manufactured' and was
gifted with a small piece as a keepsake.
It was then 50 times the price of silver. Tantalum, which
sounds like something out of Star Trek, is a very interesting
metal. It was first isolated in 1802. It is much harder than
the hardest steel while still malleable, more stainless by
several orders of magnitude than the most stainless of
stainless steels, is non-magnetic, and superconductive when
supercooled. It is more conductive than silver (but less than
gold) and is very heavy, just a few places left of gold on
the periodic table. It also has an incredibly high melting point,
just about 3000 degrees Celsius.
It is scarce-- mined only in the United States, South Africa,
Germany and Russia as far as I know, and is used to make
the jacket on the head of anti-tank missiles. The cone-shaped
head of the missile has a tiny inverted cone in the tantalum tip
which "implodes" outward upon hitting the tank, concentrating
a massive force on a tiny area, thereby opening a small hole
in the tank's armor plating. The rest of the missile body then
squeezes on through and explodes inside the tank -- simple!
Now this would make some cool coins, but I'm afraid the
dies to strike tantalum planchets would have to be ultra hard
and be exceedingly expensive! But, I believe I heard once
that somebody did make a medal in tantalum, I think in
Britain, but I may be wrong."
Wayne Homren, Editor
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