NIOBIUM – A material for innovations with great future potential

Niobium (Nb) is widely-consumed worldwide to manufacture high-grade structural steels and superalloys. It is a key constituent of many high-performing metal alloys and is increasingly used to manufacture superconductive components and magnets. Consequently, niobium is one of the most desirable materials on earth for driving material innovations in myriad industries.

The element symbol for the refractory metal niobium

H.C. Starck Solutions unrivaled experience in the development of advanced engineering metals has cemented the company as a world-leading supplier of pure niobium and niobium alloys.

Properties of Niobium

Niobium is a unique transition metal with exceptional corrosion resistant properties as well as oxidizing very slowly in air at room temperature. Originally dubbed Columbium in 1801, niobium was independently discovered as an element intrinsically tied to tantalum and not independently determined to be distinct from tantalum until 1844. For 140 years element 41 shared the names niobium and Columbium but niobium was internationally accepted in 1984 because of its importance to large high energy physics projects.

With a density of 8.5g/cm3, niobium is extremely ductile and can be formed easily even at low temperatures. It must be isolated in controlled/inert atmospheres when formed or machined at elevated temperatures to limit the formation of niobium oxides. Niobium, like tantalum, retains an extremely high melting point of 2477°C (4490°F). Of all elements, niobium has the highest superconducting critical temperature at 9.2 Kelvin. Metal superconductor alloys with the highest critical temperatures and fields are all niobium based.

Niobium’s Applications and Manufacturing

The inimitable chemical and physical properties of niobium make it suitable for a raft of applications and production methodologies, including:

  • Additive manufacturing
  • Electron beam melting
  • Extrusion
  • Hot and cold rolling
  • Rotary forging

These techniques are essential for the development of advanced niobium components for a diverse range of markets. These include: particle acceleration plants; synthetic diamond manufacturing facilities; and vapor deposition chambers and tools. Niobium alloys, such as C103, are used extensively in rocket nozzle and flame shielding applications.  H.C. Starck Solutions can assist in the development of niobium parts for each of these industries and more. Simply contact the team for more information.