Niobium is used as an alloying agent in carbon and alloy steels and in non-ferrous metals. It is also used in jet engines and rockets. This element has superconductive properties and is used in superconductive magnets. This type of application could be used for the large-scale generation of electricity. It is frequently used in jewelry and has been tested for use in some medical implants.
Niobium, formerly columbium, is a shiny, soft, grey and ductile transition metal. It takes on a bluish tinge when exposed to air at room temperature for a long time. It is very resistant to corrosion and is added in small amounts to improve stainless steels. The name comes from Greek mythology: Niobe, daughter of Tantalus.
Niobium has physical and chemical properties similar to those of the element tantalum, and the two are therefore difficult to distinguish.
The main source of this element is in the mineral columbite, which can be found in Canada, Brazil, Australia, Nigeria and elsewhere. However, it is commercially prepared as a by-product of tin extraction.
While niobium dust is an eye and skin irritant and a potential fire hazard, elemental niobium on a larger scale is physiologically inert, making it hypoallergenic and harmless.