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» Niobium Intorduction

Niobium, discovered in 1801 by C. Hatchett, an English Chemist, is a metal that is closely related to tantalum. It offers similar corrosion resistance and yet is formable, weldable, and easier to machine. However, neither niobium or tantalum are considered to be easy to machine.

Niobium is very similar to tantalum and several alloys are available in the arc-cast and wrought condition. It has the lowest melting point of all the refractory metals covered, the lowest modulus of elasticity and thermal conductivity, and the highest thermal expansion. It also has the lowest strength and lowest density of the refractory metals.

Niobium was used as an alloy for many years. Nb/1%Zr was, and still is, used in nuclear reactors as the tubing for the fuel pellets because of its resistance to neutron bombardment. As C-103 alloy, it has been used for rocket nozzles and exhaust nozzles for jet engines and rockets because of its high strength and oxidation resistance at a low weight. Recently, it has been gaining favor in its pure form for semiconductor equipment components and corrosion resistant parts.

Heat treating in a vacuum at 1200°C for one hour causes complete re crystallization of material cold worked over 50%. This must be performed in a high vacuum (1 x 10-4 minimum) or in a clean, dry, inert gas.

Niobium can be bent, spun, deep drawn, and formed at room temperature up to its maximum work hardening. Machining is somewhat more difficult. High speed tooling with a proper lubricant will allow machining of niobium.

However, note that tool wear is high and the cost of machining is high in comparison to conventional metals. Tools will wear fast and high rake angles should be maintained. Tool maintenance must be taken into consideration when costing niobium parts. Nonetheless, this metal is an ideal candidate for a lower cost alternative when tantalum is being considered. Rembar supplies niobium in powder, sheet, rod, and wire forms. If your needs require fabrication of niobium, Rembar has the experience to produce the part to your specifications.

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