Tellurium is a chemical element with symbol Te and atomic number 52. It is a brittle, mildly toxic, rare, silver-white metalloid. Tellurium is chemically related to selenium and sulfur. It is occasionally found in native form as elemental crystals. Tellurium is far more common in the universe as a whole than on Earth. Its extreme rarity in the Earth’s crust, comparable to that of platinum, is due partly to its high atomic number, but also to its formation of a volatile hydride which caused it to be lost to space as a gas during the hot nebular formation of the planet.
Tellurium was discovered in the Habsburg Empire, in 1782 by Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein in a mineral containing tellurium and gold. Martin Heinrich Klaproth named the new element in 1798 after the Latin word for “earth”, tellus. Gold telluride minerals are the most notable natural gold compounds. However, they are not a commercially significant source of tellurium itself, which is normally extracted as a by-product of copper and lead production.
Commercially, the primary use of tellurium is copper and steel alloys, where it improves machinability. Applications in CdTe solar panels and semiconductors also consume a considerable portion of tellurium production.
Telluride and Tellurite can be removed from water by a variety of strong base anion resins.