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A nonmetallic element that is similar to Selenium. Tellurium was first identified in 1782 by Franz von Reichenstein, but it was later isolated and named by Martin Klaproth in 1798. Tellurium has an estimated abundance in the earth's crust of 0.002 ppm. Tellurium usually occurs as telluride in gold, silver, copper, lead and nickel ores. It is mined in Colorado, California, Ontario, Mexico and Germany. Tellurium is a silvery-white solid. It is used as a colorant in glass and ceramic glazes and to make a black finish on Silver. Small amounts improve the machinability of steels and Copper alloys. Tellurium is also used in solar cells, infrared detectors, and thermoelectric generators.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Te; klaproth; aurum paradoxum; metallum problematum; Telluur (Ned.); tellure (Fr.); Tellur (Deut., Sven., Pol.); tellurio (It.); Telúrio (Port.); teluro (Esp.); telurio (Esp.)


  • Flammable.
  • Potentially teratogenic.
  • Toxic by inhalation of dust or fumes.
  • Tellurium compounds can be absorbed through the skin and are toxic.
  • ThermoFisher: SDS

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Soluble in sulfuric acid, nitric acid, potassium hydroxide, and potassium cyanide solutions. Insoluble in water, benzene, carbon disulfide.
  • Flame color is deep green.
Composition Te (atomic no. 52)
CAS 13494-80-9
Mohs Hardness 2.0 - 3.0
Melting Point 449.8 C
Density 6.24 g/ml
Molecular Weight atomic wt = 127.60
Boiling Point 989.9 C

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 803
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 9273
  • Web Elements: -date of discovery 1783
  • Chemical & Engineering News, American Chemical Society, Washington DC, 81 (36) , Sept. 8, 2003 Comment: Donald C. Dittner, p. 128 - date of discovery 1782
  • Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia, Douglas M. Considine (ed.), Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 1976
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998

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