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The Collaborative International Dictionary

niobium \ni*o"bi*um\, n. [NL., fr. L. & E. Niobe.] (Chem.) The chemical element of atomic number 4

  1. Chemical symbol Nb. Atomic weight 9

  2. 91. Previously called columbium. See also Columbium.


Columbium \Co*lum"bi*um\, n. [NL., fr. Columbia Americ

  1. ] (Chem.) A rare element of the vanadium group, first found in a variety of the mineral columbite occurring in Connecticut, probably at Haddam. Atomic weight 94.2. Symbol Cb or N

  2. Now more commonly called niobium.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

named by German scientist Heinrich Rose, who discovered it in 1844 in a mineral then called tantalum; so called because in Greek mythology Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus.


n. a metallic chemical element (''symbol'' Nb) with an atomic number of 41.


n. a soft gray ductile metallic element used in alloys; occurs in niobite; formerly called columbium [syn: Nb, atomic number 41]


Niobium, formerly columbium, is a chemical element with symbol Nb (formerly Cb) and atomic number 41. It is a soft, grey, ductile transition metal, which is often found in the pyrochlore mineral, the main commercial source for niobium, and columbite. The name comes from Greek mythology: Niobe, daughter of Tantalus since it is so similar to tantalum.

Niobium has physical and chemical properties similar to those of the element tantalum, and the two are difficult to distinguish. The English chemist Charles Hatchett reported a new element similar to tantalum in 1801 and named it columbium. In 1809, the English chemist William Hyde Wollaston wrongly concluded that tantalum and columbium were identical. The German chemist Heinrich Rose determined in 1846 that tantalum ores contain a second element, which he named niobium. In 1864 and 1865, a series of scientific findings clarified that niobium and columbium were the same element (as distinguished from tantalum), and for a century both names were used interchangeably. Niobium was officially adopted as the name of the element in 1949, but the name columbium remains in current use in metallurgy in the United States.

It was not until the early 20th century that niobium was first used commercially. Brazil is the leading producer of niobium and ferroniobium, an alloy of niobium and iron which has a niobium content of 60-70%. Niobium is used mostly in alloys, the largest part in special steel such as that used in gas pipelines. Although these alloys contain a maximum of 0.1%, the small percentage of niobium enhances the strength of the steel. The temperature stability of niobium-containing superalloys is important for its use in jet and rocket engines.

Niobium is used in various superconducting materials. These superconducting alloys, also containing titanium and tin, are widely used in the superconducting magnets of MRI scanners. Other applications of niobium include welding, nuclear industries, electronics, optics, numismatics, and jewelry. In the last two applications, the low toxicity and iridescence produced by anodization are highly desired properties.

Usage examples of "niobium".

He showed his colleagues, under the electron microscope, how the nonliving parasites ate their way into the filaments of a superconducting niobium compound, multiplying as more and more material was devoured.

Number Eight was next and then Four, whose good time was spoiled by a five part in ten thousand error in the niobium figure.

Modern stainless steels may also contain nickel, manganese, niobium, tungsten and titanium, none of which the Grantvillers will be producing any time soon.

During a lull in the carousing, I dealt each of my three human companions a niobium EFT card primed with the agreed-upon stipend, plus a sizable bonus.

The residue may consist of unremoved silica, and oxides of tantalum, niobium, and, perhaps, chromium.

The oxide of niobium dissolved in a bead of microcosmic salt gives a bluish colour in the reducing flame.

But one hundred thousand tons of high-grade niobium is worth the trip and then some.

One shipload of niobium ore, even if it takes a eight-year round trip at sub-light speeds to obtain, will easily pay for nine lost drones.

Tantalum, extracted from niobium ore, is used to construct matter transmitter focusing rings, among other things.

One shipload of niobium ore, even if it takes an eight year round trip at sub-lightspeeds to obtain, will easily pay for nine lost drones.

S-cubes, moongems, boxes of organic dirt, bars of niobium, tanks of helium, vats of sewage, feely tapes, intelligent prosthetics, carboys of water, and cheap mecco novelties of every description.

He handed me three small plastic rectangles, niobium Rampart credit cards made out in the names of Helmut Icicle, Matilde Gregoire, and Karl Nazarian.

He actualized an imipolex figure and equipped it with camera-eyes, an uvvy, a rudimentary niobium wire nervous system, and a control patch like he'd given Willa Jean.

And the superconducting niobium alloy showed, in the unbroken lengths, cavities—parts eaten away by endothermic catalysis.

Here, within a metre-wide sphere of perfect orbit-fused quartz, the quartz covered with a mirror coating of niobium, were eight thumb-sized ceramic cells, each containing approximately a thousand atoms of copper.