Niobium used to be known as Columbium, and after a century of controversy surrounding the naming of the chemical element the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry adopted the name Niobium. This chemical element is a soft, ductile Transition Metal, which is quite similar to Tantalum. Niobium is mainly used in metallurgy as a strengthening alloy for pipelines, magnets, superconductors, optics, electronics and even jewelry manufacturing. It is among the most abundant elements on Earth and is regarded as the 34th most common of all chemical elements in our planet’s crust in combination with other elements in various minerals, as it does not exist as a free element. Nowadays Brazil is the biggest producer of this chemical element.
Physical Characteristics of Niobium
In terms of physical characteristics Niobium is quite similar to another Transition Metal – Tantalum. Niobium appears as a relatively soft grey metallic element with a brilliant luster. It is noteworthy ductile and shares various group trends with other Transition Metals. Impurities in this metal make it harder and less ductile, but in a pure form Niobium is a soft metallic element. Its electron configuration is atypical to the rest of the chemical elements in group 5, and its magnetic ordering is paramagnetic. Niobium’s melting and boiling points are significantly high – at 2750 K and 5017 K in their respective order. This element crystalizes in a body-centered cubic crystal structure.
Chemical Properties of Niobium
Atomic Number – 41
Group – 5
Period – 5
Block – d
Electronic Configuration – 4d4 5s1
Relative Atomic Mass – 92.90638 (92.90638 g/mol)
Molecular Weight – 92.90638
Electronegativity – 1.6
Density (G CM-3) – 8.57 g/cm3 at room temperature
Melting Point – 2750 K; 2477 °C; 4491 °F
Boiling Point – 5017 K; 4744 °C; 8571 °F
Atomic Radius – 146 pm
Isotopes – 1
Electronic Shell – 2, 8, 18, 12, 1
Discovery of Niobium
Back in 1801 the English chemist Charles Hatchett identified a new chemical element in a mineral sample. He named the mineral columbite and the element Columbium. As it turned out, his founding was actually a mixture of Niobium and Tantalum. Heinrich Rose, a German chemist, also studied the element and finally ruled out that there was a clear distinction between it and Tantalum in 1844. He was the one, who proposed the name Niobium after the Greek heroine Niobe. The universal name Niobium was finally adopted by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry in 1950.
The first isolation of Niobium was carried out in 1864 by a Swedish mineralogist and chemist, named Christian Wilhelm Blomstrand.
Recognized by: Heinrich Rose (1844)
Known and discovered by: Charles Hatchett (1801)
Named by: Heinrich Rose (1844)
Uses and role of Niobium
Niobium does not play any known biological roles to human beings or other living organisms on Earth. Due to its ductility, low toxicity and its strengthening abilities Niobium has a large range of commercial applications acting mainly as an alloy in various productions of metallurgy, electronics, optics, nuclear industries, and jewelry manufacturing.
Niobium plays various roles as part of many super-alloys with Nickel, Cobalt, Iron, Chromium, Aluminum, and so forth. It is used in space crafts, gas turbines, pipelines, cars, and superconductors. This Transition Metal also plays a role in the manufacturing of magnets, lasers, glass pieces, phones, prosthetics, jewelry pieces, and lamps.
Niobium on Earth
Niobium does not exist freely in nature as a free element on Earth and can be found only in mixture with other chemical elements in various minerals, such as columbite, euxenite, simpsonite, tantalite, and so on. It is the 34th most abundant element in our planet’s crust, and is also present in the Earth’s core. The current leading supplier of Niobium is Brazil.
It has been discovered that in recent years the global Niobium sales market has rapidly increased due to the fact that this chemical element is sought after various electronics, optics, jewelry and alloy manufacturers over its ductility and low density.