What is Niobium?

NIOBIUM {ny-oh'-bee-uhm}


Niobium is a shiny-white, soft, metallic chemical element; its symbol is Nb. The name of the element is derived from the Greek mythological Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus. Niobium has an atomic number of 41 and an atomic weight of 92.9064. A ductile metal, it has a melting point of 2,468 deg C (4,474.4 deg F), a boiling point of 4,742 deg C (8,567.6 deg F), and a density of 8.51 g/cu cm at 20 deg C (68 deg F).
The element was discovered by Charles Hatchett in 1801 in a sample of ore sent to England more than a hundred years earlier by the first governor of Connecticut. The metallic element was first prepared in 1864 by Christian Blomstrand of Sweden by reduction of the heated chloride in a stream of hydrogen. Despite the adoption of the name niobium by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the alternative name columbium is still used by metallurgists in the United States.
Niobium is found worldwide, and principal commercial sources are niobite (columbite), niobitetantalite, pyrochlore,tantalite, and euxenite.Major niobium producers are Brazil, Canada, Nigeria, and Zaire.
Niobium looks like steel or, when polished, like platinum. It resists corrosion, is a good shock absorber, and can withstand very high temperatures. Among its many industrial applications niobium in small amounts is used in alloys. The presence of niobium makes hot-pressing dies and cutting tools resistant to shock and wear. Its conductivity makes it useful in electronic devices and superconductive magnets. If combined with nickel, it makes a high-temperature alloy; added with iron to stainless steel, it offers stability on welding or heating. Niobium is also used in high-strength structural steel. Nuclear reactor cores are constructed with niobium alloys because niobium does not react chemically with uranium and because it is resistant to corrosion.
Niobium is a member of a small family of metals known as refractory metals. All the color you will see is purely refracted light; no dyes, colorings, or paints are used! The thickness of the oxide determines the color you see and allows us to express design in color and pattern. We use an electrochemical oxidation process (water and electricity) to control the oxide build-up and therefore control the color. Niobium is totally hypo-allergenic. This refractory element (along with Titanium) is frequently used in artificial joints, plates, pacemakers and dental implants. It is the safest metal you can wear. We will hang any of our earrings on Niobium wires at no extra charge.

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