Discovery First announced in 1801 by English chemist Charles Hatchett, he suggested the name Columbium after the mineral in which it is found Columbite. Until 1844 was thought to be the same element as Tantalum. In 1844 German chemist Heinrich Rose rediscoversColumbium by producing two new acids from Columbite and Tantalite.Rose proposes the name Columbite-Niobium after Niobe the Greek goddess of tears, daughter of Tantalus from whom the name Tantalum comes from.It is not until 1866 the Jean Charles Galissard De Marignac proves that Niobium and Tantalum are in fact two separate elements.
AcceptanceMarignac also indicates Columbium and Niobium are the same element. It is not until 1949 the International Union of Pure andApplied Chemistry (IUPAC) adopts Niobium as the name for the element. Today many metallurgist continue to use the name Columbium for the element. In its raw form it is mined alongside Tantalum.
Properties Niobium is a shiny grey metal Solid at room temperature Melting Point 2468° C Boiling Point 4927° C Density 8.57 g/cm3Period 5, Group 5 on the periodic table
Properties Heat of Fusion 30 KJ/mol-1 Heat of Vaporization 689.9 KJ/mol-1 Electronegativity 1.6 Crystal Structure, Cubic Body-Center Mohs Hardness 6.0 One naturally occurring isotope and 18 known.
Occurrence and CostAbundance in the earths crust at 17 parts per million by weight or 3.7 parts per million by moles.In the solar system it occurs at 4 parts per million by weight or 50 parts per trillion by moles.Niobium is not traded on any exchange so pricing is negotiated per trade, with current pricing at approximately $45.00 per Kg.
Pyrochlore Pyrochlore is the primary mineral from which niobium is obtained.The largest deposits are located in Brazil and Quebec Canada Estimated reserves totaling 460 million tons are enough to meet current demands for about 500 years.Niobium is also found in very small quantities in the slag produced while smelting some tin ores.
Coltan An abbreviation used only in Africa for the “columbo- tantalite” mineral, containing both Columbium (niobium) and Tantalum. There is controversy over the mining of Coltan in Africa, the UN reports it has been used to finance war in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, much like “blood diamonds”, of the 1990’s and 2000’s.
Common UsesNiobium is used in the manufacture of Stainless Steel and other non ferrous metals, to enhance their strength.It is widely used in metals devoted to pipeline usage. It has a low capture cross-section for thermal neutrons making it optimal for use in the nuclear industries. Niobium is used extensively by NASA as a superconducting resilient material.
Superconductor MagnetsWhen mixed with aluminum, tin and titanium thesealloys are formed into superconducting magnets,creating some of the strongest electromagnets in the world. These magnets are often used in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance machines.
Jet Engines Both Niobium and Tantalum are used in the manufacture of turbine blades, for use in jet engines.
EyeglassesAdding Niobium to opticalglass provides a higher rateof refraction, allowing for a thinner, lighter corrective lens lens. It is also being used in camera lenses and copy machines.
NASA used Niobium to help prove Einsteins Theory of Relativitycorrect. In 2004 NASA launches the Gravity Probe-B with 4 fused quartz gyroscopes, coated with Niobium, they were the most spherical spheres ever made.
Niobium Coins Niobium is used by mints throughout the world in the manufacture of proof coins. Its ability to accept anodizing in a wide range of colors makes it attractive to mints producing bi-metal coins.
Jewelry Niobium being hypoallergenic is used throughout the jewelry industry. With itsavailability in a large range of colors Niobium hasbecome a favorite for use in body piercing jewelry.
Conclusion Niobium may not be a household name, but its uses are seen everyday from its addition to steel forstrengthening to the jewelry worn in a piercing. It isthe unseen uses in the Space industry, along with themedical and scientific fields as a superconductor that Niobium is a truly unique element.
References Google images minerals.usgs.gov Webelements.com/niobium Jefferson Lab Cengage.com Rolls-Royce Wise geek Techie-buzz Austrian mint
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