Tellurium is a metalloid, meaning it possesses the properties of both metals and nonmetals. It has a silvery-white appearance, and exhibits a metallic luster when pure.
According to this USGS Mineral Resources Program data sheet, “Tellurium’s primary use is for manufacturing films essential to photovoltaic solar cells. When alloyed with other elements— such as cadmium—tellurium forms a compound that exhibits enhanced electrical conductivity. Therefore, a thin film can efficiently absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. As an additive to steel, copper, and lead alloys, tellurium improves machine efficiency, specifically in thermoelectric cooling applications where it improves ductility and tensile strength, and helps prevent sulfuric acid corrosion. Together, the photovoltaic and thermoelectric applications account for more than two-thirds of global tellurium consumption.”
Unfortunately, another characteristic of tellurium is that human exposure to tellurium can lead to a garlic odor on the breath, nausea, and eventual respiratory problems.
Portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) technology can identify a wide range of mineralogical metals, including Rare Earth Elements, and those elements that are even rarer. (Rare Earth Elements are defined as the 15 lanthanides plus scandium (Sc) and yttrium (Y), and they are critical components in consumer electronics, automobile catalytic converters, and rechargeable batteries due to their unique optical and magnetic properties.)
Discover more facts about this element that is rarer than the rare earth elements and eight times less abundant than gold in this infographic 9 Fast Facts About Tellurium.