Niobium | Descriptions, Properties, Uses & Facts

Niobium | Niobium Metal

Niobium: A Metal of Strength and Versatility


Niobium, a metallic element denoted by the symbol Nb, holds a distinct place in the periodic table with its atomic number 41. Known for its exceptional properties and versatility, niobium plays a crucial role in various industries, from aerospace to electronics. In this blog, we'll explore the fascinating world of niobium, covering its atomic structure, chemical properties, reactions, compounds, occurrence, production, and its economic relevance, including the current market price.

Atomic Structure:

Niobium boasts an atomic number of 41 and an atomic mass of approximately 92.906 g/mol. 

The electron configuration of niobium (Nb), a transition metal with the atomic number 41, is: [Kr] 4d⁴ 5s¹ or


This electron configuration represents the distribution of electrons in the various atomic orbitals of niobium, following the rules of filling orbitals in the order of increasing energy levels and the Pauli exclusion principle.

Chemical and Physical Properties:

Niobium exhibits remarkable physical and chemical properties that make it a valuable element in various applications.

Physical Properties:

  • Melting Point: 2,468 degrees Celsius
  • Boiling Point: 4,744 degrees Celsius
  • Density: 8.57 g/cm³
  • Grey, lustrous appearance

Chemical Properties:

  • Resistant to corrosion
  • Niobium metal forms a protective oxide layer when exposed to air
  • Exhibits superconductivity at low temperatures
  • Capable of alloy formation with other metals, enhancing their strength and temperature resistance

Reactivity and Compounds:

Niobium showcases a moderate reactivity, forming oxides and halides under specific conditions. Niobium compounds include niobium oxide (Nb2O5), niobium chloride (NbCl5), and niobium carbide (NbC), among others. These compounds find applications in catalysts, superconductors, and various technological advancements.

Occurrence and Production:

Niobium primarily occurs in minerals such as columbite and pyrochlore. Brazil, Canada, and Nigeria are significant producers of niobium. Extraction methods involve complex processes like leaching, precipitation, and solvent extraction, leading to the production of high-purity niobium.

Economic Relevance and Current Market Trends:

The economic importance of niobium stems from its utilization in the production of superalloys, which are crucial for manufacturing jet engines and gas turbines. As a superconductor, niobium contributes to advancements in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology and particle accelerators.

Niobium Price and Market Trends:

As of March 3, 2024, the price of niobium stands at US $45 per kg. This figure is influenced by factors such as global demand, geopolitical events, and advancements in industries relying on niobium.

Niobium Metal and its Applications:

Niobium's strength and low-temperature superconductivity make it a prized material in various industries. Aerospace engineering benefits from niobium's contribution to high-performance alloys, while the electronics industry relies on its superconducting properties for developing cutting-edge technologies.

Niobium Chloride: A Key Compound:

Niobium chloride (NbCl5) is a vital compound in niobium chemistry. Its applications range from catalysts in chemical processes to the production of high-purity niobium metal.

Uses of Niobium:

1. Superalloys in Aerospace:

Niobium is a crucial component in superalloys used for manufacturing jet engines, gas turbines, and aerospace components.

Its high melting point and excellent strength-to-weight ratio make it ideal for applications in extreme conditions.

2. Superconductors in Electronics:

Niobium exhibits superconductivity at low temperatures, making it valuable in the production of superconducting magnets used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines.

It is also employed in the development of superconducting materials for advanced electronics and quantum computing.

3. Alloying Agent in Steel:

Niobium is commonly used as an alloying agent in high-strength, low-alloy (HSLA) steels, enhancing their mechanical properties such as toughness and corrosion resistance.

These steels find applications in pipelines, construction, and automotive industries.

4. Nuclear Reactor Components:

Niobium's resistance to corrosion and its ability to withstand high temperatures make it suitable for use in nuclear reactors.

It is utilized in the production of reactor components and fuel cladding.

5. Niobium Capacitors:

Niobium oxide is used in the production of electrolytic capacitors, which find applications in electronic devices, including smartphones, computers, and audio equipment.

6. Catalysts and Chemical Processing:

Niobium compounds, such as niobium chloride, serve as catalysts in various chemical processes.

he chemical industry uses niobium in the production of specialty chemicals and petrochemicals.

7. Medical Implants:

Niobium is biocompatible and corrosion-resistant, making it suitable for use in medical implants and devices.

8. Jewelry and Art:

Due to its hypoallergenic properties and attractive appearance, niobium is sometimes used in jewelry and artistic applications.

Facts about Niobium:

1. Discovery:

Niobium was discovered in 1801 by English chemist Charles Hatchett.

It was initially named columbium, but confusion arose with another element, tantalum.

2. Name Origin:

The element was officially named niobium in 1950 by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) after Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus in Greek mythology.

3. Transition Metal Characteristics:

Niobium is a transition metal, belonging to Group 5 of the periodic table.

It shares similarities with tantalum, another transition metal, and is often found in the same minerals.

4. Abundance:

Niobium is relatively abundant in the Earth's crust, with an estimated concentration of about 20 parts per million.

5. Superconducting Properties:

Niobium becomes superconducting at temperatures below 9.2 Kelvin (-263.95 degrees Celsius), making it useful in cryogenic applications.

6. Global Production:

Brazil is a major producer of niobium, followed by Canada and Nigeria.

The mineral pyrochlore is a primary source of niobium.

7. Mining and Extraction:

Niobium is typically extracted through a series of complex processes involving leaching, precipitation, and solvent extraction.

8. Contribution to Sustainable Technologies:

Niobium's use in high-strength, lightweight alloys contributes to the development of fuel-efficient vehicles and more sustainable transportation solutions.

Understanding these uses and facts highlights the diverse and impactful role that niobium plays in various industries, from advancing technology to supporting critical infrastructure.


In conclusion, niobium stands as a testament to the remarkable properties of transition metals. Its strength, versatility, and unique chemical characteristics make it indispensable in modern technology. As we continue to unlock the potential of niobium, its role in shaping the future of industries remains a captivating journey of scientific discovery.

Also Read:

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Nitrogen | Descriptions, Chemical and Physical Properties, Uses & Facts

Beryllium | Descriptions, Chemical and Physical Properties, Uses & Facts

Hydrogen | Difference between Blue and Green Hydrogen | Hydrogen Fuel

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