The Anders Gustaf Ekeberg Tantalum Prize (‘Ekeberg Prize’) is awarded annually by the T.I.C. for excellence in tantalum research and innovation. The Ekeberg Prize, set up in 2017, increases awareness of the many unique properties of tantalum products and the applications in which they excel.

Recognising excellence in tantalum research and innovation

Announcing the 2020 shortlist, the Director of the T.I.C., Roland Chavasse, said that technology-driven innovations will ensure the long-term future of the tantalum market and that the Ekeberg Prize will encourage research and development. “Winners of the Anders Gustaf Ekeberg Tantalum Prize will be acknowledged as true leaders in this field”, he added.
The award is administered by the Tantalum-Niobium International Study Center (T.I.C.), the global trade body representing the tantalum and niobium industry.
The seven publications on the short list show the great versatility of tantalum:
• Fabrication of porous tantalum and tungsten black coatings for artificial earth satellites
• Tantalum (Ta) and niobium (Nb) containing alloy powders for application in additive manufacturing
• Tantalum recycling by solvent extraction: chloride is better than fluoride
• Discovery of ω-free high-temperature Ti-Ta-X shape memory alloys from first-principles calculations
• Tantalum bone implants printed by selective electron beam manufacturing (SEBM) and their clinical applications
• Tantalum(V) 1,3-propanediolate beta-diketonate solution as a precursor to sol–gel derived, metal oxide thin films
• Remelt processing and microstructure of selective laser melted Ti25Ta
The winner will be chosen by the independent panel of experts and the Prize medal, made from pure tantalum metal, will be awarded at the T.I.C.’s 61st General Assembly (annual conference) in Geneva, Switzerland, in October 2020. The T.I.C.’s conference is the largest annual gathering of tantalum and niobium industry leaders, with delegates from every sector of the global industry.
The 2019 winner was Nicolas Soro and his colleagues for their paper "Evaluation of the mechanical compatibility of additively manufactured porous Ti–25Ta alloy for load-bearing implant applications"
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Early history

Tantalum was discovered in 1802, one year after niobium by Anders Gustaf Ekeberg (1767-1813). Ekeberg was born in Sweden and graduated from the University of Uppsala in 1788. He embarked on a teaching career at Uppsala where he presented chemical expositions and analysed minerals. The minerals of Ytterby, Sweden were a particular interest. One mineral he investigated became known as yttrotantalite, from Ytterby, Sweden, and another was from Kimito, Finland. The same previously unknown element was discovered in both of these specimens.

Ekeberg had been passionate about ancient Greek literature since childhood and he called it tantalum after Tantalus, the son of Jupiter, who was condemned to eternal frustration and could not drink even though he was standing in water up to his neck. The new element reacted to no acid in Ekeberg's laboratory, hence the name.

In 1809, William Hyde Wollaston, a British chemist, analysed both columbite and tantalite mineral specimens and claimed that columbium and tantalum were the same element.

There was no dispute concerning his conclusion until Heinrich Rose, in 1844, was able to distinguish these two elements by their differences in valence state, with columbium exhibiting 3 and 5 states and tantalum only 5 as stable entities. He renamed columbium as niobium after Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus.

The chemical similarities of the oxides of these two elements made it very difficult for the chemists of that time to separate them. Marignac developed a procedure in 1866 to achieve their separation via the use of potassium double fluoride salts of tantalum and niobium. The potassium niobium oxyfluoride, K2NbOF7 has very high solubility in comparison to the potassium tantalum fluoride, K2TaF7. Columbium and niobium were shown to be the same element.

The names columbium and niobium were both used to identify this element for almost another century, with columbium being preferred in the Americas. It was not until 1949 that the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) officially adopted niobium as the name for this element. Old habits die slowly, and some metallurgists continue to use the term columbium to this day.