Chem Explorers

Unleashing the Power of Niobium: From Superconductors to Electric Cars

Niobium: A Versatile Transition Metal

Niobium is a transition metal with the chemical symbol Nb. It is a soft, gray metal that is ductile and highly resistant to corrosion and oxidation at room temperature. This metal is highly valued for its many versatile properties and can be found in different forms such as foil, sheet, tube, rod, and powder.

In this article, we will explore the natural occurrence, properties, naming, and discovery of niobium. We will also delve into its atomic data and its position in the periodic table.

Natural Occurrence and Major Producers

Niobium can be found in association with ores like tantalum and iron. Most niobium resources are found in carbonatites and pyrochlore deposits.

Brazil is the largest producer of niobium, followed by Canada, Russia, Zaire, and Nigeria. These countries are estimated to account for nearly 98 percent of global niobium reserves.

Brazil alone accounts for about 90 percent of global niobium production.

Properties of Niobium

Niobium has a number of unique properties that make it a valuable metal for several industrial applications. Some of these properties include:

  • Soft: Niobium is a soft metal that can be easily formed into different shapes.
  • Ductile: Niobium is highly ductile and can be drawn into thin wires.
  • Isotopes: Niobium has several isotopes, but only one of these isotopes is stable.
  • Highly resistant to corrosion and oxidation: Niobium is highly resistant to corrosion and oxidation at room temperature. This makes it ideal for use in chemical processing and high-temperature applications.
  • Excellent superconducting properties: Niobium becomes superconductive at temperatures below -263 degrees Celsius. This makes it ideal for use in electronic and medical devices.

Naming and Discovery

The name niobium is derived from the name Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus in Greek mythology. Niobium was discovered independently by two scientists in the early 19th century, Christian Wilhelm Blomstrand and John Winthrop.

Several other scientists also discovered niobium, including Charles Hatchett, William Hyde Wollaston, Heinrich Rose, and Jean Charles Galissard de Marignac. Niobium was initially named Columbium by Hatchett, but it was later renamed Niobium by Blomstrand.

Position of Niobium in the Periodic Table

Niobium is a group 5 element, with an atomic number of 41. It has five electrons in its outermost shell and has a total of nine isotopes.

Niobium is a block d element and is found in the fifth period of the periodic table. It has a crystal structure of body-centered cubic and a lattice parameter of 0.329 nm.


In conclusion, niobium is a versatile metal that is highly valued for its unique properties and versatile applications. It is used in various industries, including aerospace, electronics, medical, and construction.

Niobium has a fascinating history, and its naming and discovery have undergone several revisions over the years. The position of niobium in the periodic table reveals a lot about its atomic structure and properties.

As technology continues to advance, niobium will undoubtedly play an essential role in shaping the future. Niobium is a versatile and unique transitional metal that is named after the daughter of the king of Thebes.

It has a relative atomic mass of 92.91 and a molar mass of 92.090 g/mol. This element is non-toxic, odorless, and does not react with air.

Niobium is silver-gray in color and is a malleable and ductile metal that has a melting point of 2468C and boiling point of 4742C. The element is highly corrosion-resistant and is known to have an excellent combination of mechanical, electrical, and chemical properties.

In this article, the general properties, chemical properties, laboratory uses, and applications of niobium, as well as its diverse industrial uses, will be discussed.

Properties of Niobium

Niobium has a density of 8.57 g/cm3, which is about half that of steel.

This metal is known for its exceptional high-temperature properties, such as high melting and boiling points. Niobium is also known for its extreme hardness and resistance to corrosion.

The element has both electrical conductivity and thermal conductivity and is used in many important electrical applications. Niobium exhibits two different oxidation states, +3 and +5, with the +5 state being more common.

Chemical Properties of Niobium

Niobium not only possesses several distinct chemical properties, but it has contributed to numerous useful applications in chemistry. It has an atomic number of 41, and one stable isotope; its atomic weight is 92.906.

It is not flammable and is not naturally radioactive. At large temperature differences, critical temperature can surpass 4.9K, realizing the superconducting state.

Niobium exists in two primary oxidation states within compounds, namely +5 and +3. They act as a strong reducing agent in +2 valence compounds.

In +5 valence compounds, Niobium acts as a Lewis acid.

Laboratory Uses and Applications of Niobium Compounds

Niobium-based compounds are extensively used in different laboratory applications. Nb2O5, for instance, is an important material used to produce multi-layer ceramic capacitors.

Niobium compounds are also used in the manufacture of optical glass due to their property refractive index, and niobium-based electrocatalysts are used in the reduction of carbon dioxide. Niobium-based ferromagnetic and ferroelectrics materials are widely applied in data storage and transducers.

Niobium-based conducting properties have been used to develop superconductors with the ability of functioning at room temperature. Nb2O5 is used currently to remove organic and inorganic pollutants from wastewater in the water treatment industry.

Niobium-based compounds are also utilized as Lewis acid catalysts during reactions.

Industrial Applications of Niobium

Niobium finds numerous industrial applications due to its unique properties. For instance, it is an excellent alloying agent and is added to steel and other metal alloys to make them much stronger.

Niobium is used to make high-strength, low-alloy stainless steel, which is commonly used in the production of gas pipelines, automobiles, and airframe systems, among others. When alloyed with other metals, niobium forms a variety of niobium carbides, which provide enhanced strength abilities.

Niobium is also used in the production of microalloyed steels, and it serves as a composite cathode during battery production.

Niobium is used in superconductors due to its great thermal properties.

Pure niobium is mainly used to produce superconductive magnets such as those found in MRI machines. Superconductive metals like niobium are also used to make films that are utilized in addition to different electronic equipment such as accelerators and field-effect transistors.

Niobium is used in incandescent light bulbs and other lighting devices because of its excellent thermal conductivity and efficient emissivity. Niobium is utilized in the production of the lamp filament, which must reach high temperatures when the bulb is turned on.

It is also used to manufacture jewelry findings due to its hypoallergenic nature, its ability to undergo anodizing and resist oxidization, and its use in body piercing jewelry. Niobium is a highly versatile metal that offers many distinct benefits and applications in different industries due to its combination of characteristics.


Niobium is a highly versatile transitional metal with excellent properties that make it a highly valued material in different applications. It is used as an alloying agent to increase the strength of steel and in high-tech applications, including superconductors, light bulbs, and electronic and computing devices, and as well as in the production of durable and hypoallergenic jewelry.

It is also used in a variety of laboratory settings, such as water treatment, Lewis acid mediation, and electrocatalysis. The remarkable properties of Niobium make it an important material for many scientific and industrial applications.

Niobium is a relatively safe metal to work with in modern industrial and laboratory applications. However, like any other metal, it is important to handle niobium with care to ensure that potential hazards are minimized.

Proper storage, handling, and disposal protocols should be put in place to ensure that niobium is used safely and efficiently. In this article, we will explore the material safety of niobium, interesting facts, and uses of niobium.

Material Safety of Niobium

Niobium does not pose a significant fire or explosion hazard when stored in a safe manner. However, when finely divided, the metal powder can be auto-ignited in oxygen-rich environments.

Niobium dust can also create a potential explosion hazard when mixed with other combustible materials. The metal is not soluble in water, and it is not reactive under normal conditions of use.

However, niobium reacts with strong acids and oxidizing agents, which can produce hydrogen gas. Exposure to niobium through inhalation, skin or eye contact, ingestion, or chronic exposure can cause health hazards.

Niobium is generally considered to be a low-toxicity metal. However, long-term exposure to niobium dust or fumes may lead to pulmonary damage.

Niobium dust can cause respiratory irritation or damage to the lungs. It is also known to be a potential carcinogen, a corrosive and sensitizer.

The metal should be handled with gloves, safety glasses, and a face mask to minimize risk. Proper ventilation should be used to ensure that airborne particles are reduced, and workers should avoid inhalation of niobium particles.

Disposal of Niobium Spills and Leaks

In the event of a niobium spill or leak, immediate action should be taken to contain the material. The area should be ventilated to minimize the release of air-borne particles, and cleaning should be done using appropriate protective gear.

The spilled niobium should be collected in a clean container and disposed of according to federal, state, and local regulations. Liquid niobium can be cleaned up with dolomite, sand, sodium chloride or soda ash, and the resulting sludge should be disposed of in a hazardous waste landfill.

Interesting Facts about Niobium

Mistaken Identity

Niobium was often mistaken for columbium, a rare earth metal, until the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry determined that the two were the same metal.

Electric Car Battery

Niobium is used as an anode material in lithium-ion batteries, which are commonly used in electric cars.

Niobium enhances the lithium storage capacity of these batteries, which enables them to go further on a single charge.

Electron Accelerator

Niobium is used as a material for high-performance electron accelerators, including those used at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility.

The metal is used to construct the superconducting cavities that contain ultra-cooled liquid helium used to accelerate electrons and investigate their quark structure.

Niobium-Germanium Superconductor

Niobium-germanium (Nb-Ge) superconductors are used in a variety of cutting-edge particle physics experiments due to their high critical temperature.

Nb-Ge superconductors can reach critical temperatures of up to 23 K, which is higher than the critical temperature of conventional cuprate superconductors.

Niobium Price

The price of niobium varies depending on the purity and form.

The cost of niobium can range from just a few dollars per gram for low-purity niobium powder to several hundred dollars per ounce for pure, high-quality niobium wire.


In conclusion, niobium is a versatile and interesting metal that is being used in a variety of high-tech applications and research. While regarding the material safety of niobium, it is relatively safe to handle, worker should be cautious about handling niobium powder, wearing protective gear, and following appropriate procedures to avoid any potential health risks.

The use of niobium in cutting-edge applications, such as electron accelerators and electric car batteries, is a testament to its versatility and potential for future applications. Additionally, its unique properties, such as high critical temperature and lithium storage capacity, ensure that it will be a valuable material for scientific and industrial purposes for many years to come.

In conclusion, niobium is a versatile and valuable metal with unique properties that make it suitable for a range of industrial and scientific applications. Its excellent mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties, along with its corrosion resistance, make it highly desirable for use in alloys, superconductors, lighting devices, and jewelry.

Niobium should be handled with care due to potential health hazards associated with inhalation, skin contact, and chronic exposure. Proper storage, handling, and disposal procedures are necessary to ensure safety.

With its fascinating properties and diverse uses, niobium continues to play a vital role in advancing technology and scientific research.


1. Is niobium a flammable or explosive material?

No, niobium is not flammable or explosive, but finely divided niobium powder can be auto-ignited in oxygen-rich environments and may create an explosion hazard when mixed with other combustible materials.

2. What are the health hazards of niobium?

Prolonged exposure to niobium dust or fumes can cause respiratory irritation, lung damage, and it is considered a potential carcinogen. It is also corrosive and can sensitize the skin.

3. How should spills and leaks of niobium be handled?

Spills and leaks should be immediately contained, and the area should be well-ventilated. The spilled niobium should be collected and disposed of according to local regulations.

Dolomite, sand, sodium chloride, or soda ash can be used to clean up liquid niobium spills.

4. What are some interesting uses of niobium?

Niobium is used in electric car batteries as an anode material, in electron accelerators for high-performance experiments, and in niobium-germanium superconductors for particle physics research.

5. What is the price range of niobium?

The cost of niobium varies depending on purity and form. It can range from a few dollars per gram for low-purity niobium powder to several hundred dollars per ounce for pure niobium wire.

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