Niobium – A Super Element
Niobium’s toughness, resistance to corrosion and excessive melting point makes it a great alloy to steel that’s applied when sturdiness is essential. It’s why around 75 percent of this mineral is used as an alloy in high-energy steel found in pipelines, transportation, and structural applications.
Niobium’s impressive resistance to heat makes it a critical factor for iron, nickel and cobalt-based superalloys which must be resistant to high heat.
Approximately 20 percent of niobium used in the U.S. is utilized to manufacture high-temperature superalloys in jet engines, rockets, gas mills and turbochargers.
On top of Niobiom’s resume of “outstanding” applications, it’s also among the most effective superconducting metals.
Superconducting magnets crafted from niobium-germanium, niobium-tin and niobium-titanium alloys are used in quite a number of important gadgets, from imaging equipment to particle accelerators.
One of Niobium’s most critical applications is in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners which use niobium superconducting magnets, in conjunction with radio waves and a computer to create an internal image of the human body.
Another important use for Niobium is for the Large Hadron Collider, a 27-kilometre (17 miles) round tunnel deep beneath the border between Switzerland and France that physicists use to collide particles together at near the speed of light.
These high-power collisions of protons assist scientists to inspect dark matter, antimatter and other secrets of the universe.
Magnetic fields guide and squeeze the particle beams, creating a more powerful collision. Niobium-titanium magnets currently being used to provide these powerful magnetic fields are being replaced with even more powerful niobium-tin magnets.
Scientists are now considering building a Future Circular Collider, a 100-kilometres (62 miles) big-brother that would be 10 times more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider. This large US$27.5 billion design would require a whole lot more niobium and a slew of other minerals deemed critical to the United States.
Apart from its “exceptional” traits, niobium is also hypoallergenic and inert, making it an excellent candidate for uses within the human body, for example, pacemakers and prosthetics.
Likewise, Niobium is one of the few metals that can be fused to create a wide array of bright colours. The high temperature creates anodized oxide layers on the exterior of niobium that produces this colour changing impression by diffracting the light that bounces off it.
This property, coupled with being hypoallergenic, makes it famous for creating colourful jewelry, in particular for body-piercing.