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Tellurium,  52Te
Metallic tellurium, diameter 3.5 cm
General properties
Name, symbol Tellurium, Te

silvery lustrous gray (crystalline),

brown-black powder (amorphous)
Tellurium in the periodic table


Atomic number 52
Standard atomic weight (Ar) 127.6
Element category , Chalcogens
Group, block 16; p-block
Period period 4
Electron configuration [Kr] 4d10 5s2 5p4
per shell
2, 8, 18, 18, 6
Physical properties
Phase solid
Melting point 722.66 K ​(449.51 °C, ​​841.12 °F)
Boiling point 1261 K ​(988 °C, ​1810 °F)
Density near r.t. 6.24 g/cm3
when liquid, at  5.70 g/cm3
Heat of fusion 17.49 kJ/mol
Heat of 114.1 kJ/mol
Molar heat capacity 25.73 J/(mol·K)
Atomic properties
Oxidation states 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, −1, −2 ​a mildly acidic oxide
Electronegativity Pauling scale: 2.1
energies 1st: 869.3 kJ/mol
2nd: 1790 kJ/mol
3rd: 2698 kJ/mol
Atomic radius empirical: 140 pm
Covalent radius 138±4 pm
Van der Waals radius 206 pm
Crystal structure
Speed of sound thin rod 2610 m/s (at 20 °C)
Thermal expansion 18 µm/(m·K)
Thermal conductivity 1.97–3.38 W/(m·K)
Magnetic ordering diamagnetic
Young's modulus 43 GPa
Shear modulus 16 GPa
Bulk modulus 65 GPa
Mohs hardness 2.25
Brinell hardness 180–270 MPa
CAS Registry Number 13494-80-9
Naming after Roman Tellus, deity of the Earth
Discovery Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein (1782)
First isolation Martin Heinrich Klaproth
· references

Tellurium is the element with symbol Te and atomic number 52.



It is usually found in -2, +2, +4 and +6 oxidation states. It has chemical properties similar to selenium, being dissolved by sulfuric and nitric acid and potassium hydroxide solutions but not in water. It corrodes copper, iron, and stainless steel in its molten state. It reacts with oxygen in air, hydrogen, and halogens. It burns with a blueish-grey flame. Although being mildly toxic, it is infamous for making you smell really bad so don´t handle it without correct safety equipment.


Tellurium is a whitish-silvery solid, crystalline element that has a nice, metallic luster. It's a brittle and easily powdered metalloid. tellurium is a good semiconductor, and conductivity increases slightly when exposed to light. It melts at 450 ºC and boils at almost 1000 ºC.


Tellurium is one of the rarest stable elements on Earth's crust. Applications are scarce, most commonly used in electronics and solar panels. Prices are high and it has few uses for home chemists, in addition to collecting elements.

Rewritable disks contain a small layer of tellurium oxide, though you will need dozens if not hundreds to isolate a significant amount of elemental tellurium.

Tellurium is sometimes found in its native (i.e., elemental) form, but is more often found as the tellurides of gold such as calaverite and krennerite (two different polymorphs of AuTe2), petzite, Ag3AuTe2, and sylvanite, AgAuTe4.


Tellurium can be prepared by reducing tellurium compounds, like metal tellurides. The procedure is very hazardous, as hydrogen telluride may form during the process. Purchasing the free element may be cheaper.

Gold, silver, copper tellurides are roasted with sodium carbonate under air at temperatures of 500 °C. The metal ions are reduced to the metals, while the telluride is converted to sodium tellurite.

M2Te + O2 + Na2CO3 → Na2TeO3 + 2 M + CO2

Tellurites can be leached from the mixture with water and are normally present as hydrotellurites HTeO3 in solution. Selenites may also be formed during this process if any selenides are present, but they can be separated by adding sulfuric acid. The hydrotellurites are converted into the insoluble tellurium dioxide, while the selenites stay in solution.

+ OH + H2SO4 → TeO2 + SO2−
+ 2 H2O

Elemental tellurium is obtained by reducing the oxide either by electrolysis or by reacting the tellurium dioxide with sulfur dioxide in sulfuric acid.

TeO2 + 2 SO2 + 2H2O → Te + 2 SO2−
+ 4 H+

The above procedure may not work on other tellurides, like cadmium telluride.


  • Make tellurium dioxide
  • Make sodium tellurite
  • Element collecting



Wear appropriate protection when handling it or it's compounds. Certain compounds such as cadmium telluride are highly toxic.

When small amounts are ingested, tellurium and its compounds are metabolized to dimethyl telluride, causing a foul garlic-like odor named "tellurium breath".


Tellurium should be stored in closed containers.


Since tellurium is rare and expensive, it's best to try to recycle it.


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