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Niobium (Nb)

Niobium (also known as Columbium) is a soft, grey, ductile transition metal with atomic number 41. Niobium is very closely related to Tantalum both chemically and physically, and some minerals and ores (such as Coltan) contain both elements in large proportions.

Annual Niobium supply is currently in the region of 64,000T/y. Currently the Niobium supply market is extremely monopolized, with only 2 mines in the world dominating the global supply of Niobium – the Araxa mining project in Brazil (90% of world supply) and the Niobec mine in Canada (9% of world supply). However, there are plans to open up production from the Elk Creek mining site in the USA at the end of this year, which has been described as “[having] the potential to be one of the largest global sources of Niobium” (US Geological Survey 2010).

Niobium’s main application is as a strengthening agent in high-grade structural steels. It readily forms Niobium Carbide and Niobium Nitride precipitates which improve grain refining and slow down recrystallization during heat treatment. The content required is very small (less than 0.1%), but the strength imparted to the steel allows construction components to be built smaller and lighter. Niobium is also a key ingredient in a range of superalloys such as Inconel, where it assists in the precipitation of the γ'’ phase within the grain structure. Niobium is also a staple in many high-tech applications such as superconductors, electroceramics and optical modulators.

ICD has a long history of supplying Niobium in different forms for many different industries. Currently we can supply:

  • Niobium pure metal
  • Ferro Niobium
  • Niobium-containing alloys, revert and waste
  • Niobium pentoxide (Nb2O5)

Atomic Number

41

Atomic Mass

92.91

Oxidation States

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, -1, -3

Density

8.57g/cm3

Crystal Structure

Body-Centred Cubic

Melting Point

2750K

Boiling Point

5017K

E Modulus

105 GPa

G Modulus

38 GPa

Vickers Hardness

870-1320 MPa

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