Niobium and Its Commercial Applications
Niobium is a chemical element with the symbol Nb and atomic number 41. Niobium is a light grey, crystalline with a melting point of 2468°C which characterizes it as a refractory metal. With its myriad of properties, Niobium is an excellent contender for fabricated parts.
Due to its low capture cross section for thermal neutrons, Niobium has application in the nuclear industry. Niobium can be electrically heated and anodized to a wide variety of colors that makes it very attractive in the jewelry industry. Niobium is added to iron or nickel to produce alloys found in the aerospace, medical and electronics industries.
Niobium becomes a superconductor at cryogenic temperatures and has the greatest magnetic penetration depth of any element. Niobium has the lowest melting point of all the traditional refractory metals. Its chemical properties are very similar to those of tantalum which appear directly below niobium in the Periodic Table, however, the corrosion resistance of Niobium is not as robust as tantalum.
Niobium was called Columbium (symbol Cb) in the United States for approximately one hundred years, although in Europe it was referenced as Niobium. In 1949, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry officially adopted Niobium as the element’s name worldwide. Today, one can still find metallurgists and metal societies that still refer to Niobium as Columbium.
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