Background | Name | Sources | Uses | Substitutes and Alternative Sources Background
Tellurium is a metallic, silvery-white element. Some even describe its appearance as "very metallic." Its atomic number is 52 and its symbol is Te. It was discovered in 1783 by Baron Franz Joseph Muller von Reichenstein of Romania, the chief inspector of mines in Transylvania at the time. Tellurium is very brittle and easily pulverized. It does not react with air or water.
As a commodity, tellurium is used in industry as pure tellurium metal, tellurium dioxide (TeO2), and alloyed (that is, mixed) with other metals.
Tellurium has no known benefit to humans. It does have a strange effect on humans, though. When tellurium is ingested, even in very small amounts, it causes very bad, garlic-smelling breath and body odor.
There are a very small number of tellurium minerals. It combines with oxygen to form tellurite, and with gold and silver to form sylvanite (Au,Ag)Te2. The most common gold telluride mineral is called calaverite(AuTe2).