While niobium was discovered in 1801 by Hatchett, it was not until 1864 that the metal itself was produced, when Blomstrand reduced niobium chloride.

Although known most commonly as niobium, there are many such as leading chemical societies that refer to it synonymously as columbium. Niobium became the preferred name, when in 1950, it was adopted by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

There are 16 known isotopes of niobium


It is found in minerals such as niobite (also known as columbite), niobite tantalite, pyrochlore and euxenite. Niobium deposits are often found associated with carbon silicate rocks known as carbonatites or as a constituent of pyrochlore. Deposits of such minerals are found in countries such as Brazil, Canada, Nigeria, the former USSR and Zaire.

Key Properties

        It is shiny and white in appearance, but may turn slightly bluish upon extended exposure to air

        It is susceptible to oxidation at raised temperatures. Therefore thermal processing should be carried out in a protective atmosphere.

        It possesses good ductility

        Possesses superconductive properties


Niobium is used in:

        Approximately 90% of niobium goes into carbon and alloy steels and non-ferrous alloys as an alloying agent where it imparts improved strength e.g. high strength low alloy (HSLA) steels, where up to about 1% niobium may be added

        Arc welding rods for stabilised grades of stainless steels

        Advanced airframe systems

Niobium alloys and aompounds

        Superconducting magnets have been made from Nb-Zr, Nb-Ti and Nb-Sn alloys

        It is sometimes alloyed with copper to produce high strength, high conductivity metal via powder metallurgy

        Nb-Zr alloys are also used for fuel tubes in nuclear reactors

        Fabricated metal components in chemical plants

        Nb2O5 is used in high refractive index glasses

        Lead-niobate is used in piezoelectric devices

        Single crystal lithium niobate is used in acoustic wave filters in televisions and other similar devices

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