Tellurium is a chemical element with the symbol 52. It is a brittle, mildly toxic, rare, silver-white metalloid. Tellurium is chemically related to selenium , all three of which are chalcogens. 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 formation of a volatile hydride that caused tellurium to be lost to space as a gas during the hot nebular formation of Earth, and partly to tellurium's low affinity for oxygen, which causes it to bind preferentially to other chalcophiles in dense minerals that sink into the core.
Tellurium-bearing compounds were first discovered in 1782 in a gold mine in Kleinschlatten (now Zlatna, Romania mineralogist Franz-Joseph Müller von Reichenstein, although it was Martin Heinrich Klaproth who 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 production.
Commercially, the primary use of tellurium is copper (tellurium copper, where it improves machinability. Applications in CdTe solar panels semiconductors also consume a considerable portion of tellurium production. Tellurium is considered a technology-critical element.
Tellurium has no biological function, although fungi can use it in place of sulfur and selenium in amino acids such as tellurocysteine In humans, tellurium is partly metabolized into dimethyl telluride , (CH3)2Te, a gas with a garlic -like odor exhaled in the breath of victims of tellurium exposure or poisoning.