Researchers create first self-assembled superconductor

Building on nearly two decades' worth of research, a multidisciplinary team at Cornell has blazed a new trail by creating a self-assembled, three-dimensional gyroidal superconductor.

Earth's rarest metals ranked in supply risk list

( -- A new list published by the British Geological Survey, or BGS, ranks 52 of Earth's elements based on their risk of supply disruption. Andrew Bloodworth, from BGS, points out that the likelihood of the world ...

Niobium used as catalyst in fuel cell

Brazil is the world's largest producer of niobium and holds about 98 percent of the active reserves on the planet. This chemical element is used in metal alloys, especially high-strength steel, and in an almost unlimited ...

Test magnet reaches 13.5 tesla – a new CERN record

The Short Model Coil (SMC) programme tests new magnet technologies with magnets about 30 centimetres long. The technology developed in the SMC will eventually help engineers build more powerful magnets for the Large Hadron ...

Replacing Platinum in Fuel Cell Technology

( -- One of the biggest hindrances to the development of fuel cell technology is its cost. In order to work properly, polymer electrolyte fuel cells require a catalyst. So far, though, the most efficient catalyst ...

Understanding the building blocks for an electronic brain

Computer bits are binary, with a value of zero or one. By contrast, neurons in the brain can have many internal states, depending on the input that they receive. This allows the brain to process information in a more energy-efficient ...

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Niobium ( /naɪˈoʊbiəm/) or columbium (/kəˈlʌmbiəm/), is a chemical element with the symbol Nb and atomic number 41. It's a soft, grey, ductile transition metal, which is often found in the pyrochlore mineral, the main commercial source for niobium, and columbite. The name comes from Greek mythology: Niobe, daughter of Tantalus.

Niobium has physical and chemical properties similar to those of the element tantalum, and the two are therefore difficult to distinguish. The English chemist Charles Hatchett reported a new element similar to tantalum in 1801, and named it columbium. In 1809, the English chemist William Hyde Wollaston wrongly concluded that tantalum and columbium were identical. The German chemist Heinrich Rose determined in 1846 that tantalum ores contain a second element, which he named niobium. In 1864 and 1865, a series of scientific findings clarified that niobium and columbium were the same element (as distinguished from tantalum), and for a century both names were used interchangeably. The name of the element was officially adopted as niobium in 1949.

It was not until the early 20th century that niobium was first used commercially. Brazil is the leading producer of niobium and ferroniobium, an alloy of niobium and iron. Niobium is used mostly in alloys, the largest part in special steel such as that used in gas pipelines. Although alloys contain only a maximum of 0.1%, that small percentage of niobium improves the strength of the steel. The temperature stability of niobium-containing superalloys is important for its use in jet and rocket engines. Niobium is used in various superconducting materials. These superconducting alloys, also containing titanium and tin, are widely used in the superconducting magnets of MRI scanners. Other applications of niobium include its use in welding, nuclear industries, electronics, optics, numismatics and jewelry. In the last two applications, niobium's low toxicity and ability to be colored by anodization are particular advantages.

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