Discovered in 1801 by C. Hatchett in London, England. Niobium is a silver colored metal which is generally found in conjunction with tantalum, the two elements being separated by fractional crystallization of their respective fluoro-complexes. It has an abundance of 20 ppm in the earth's crust. As a pure metal, is very reactive and forms an extremely stable oxide when exposed to air which enhances its corrosion resistance. Niobium will react with a variety of non-metals at elevated temperatures. Niobium and its alloys have high melting points and are, therefore, used in high temperature engineering products (for use at temperatures in excess of 1200C). It is also used as an alloying agent for certain steels where it greatly improves the strength of the resulting material. Niobium also finds applications in atomic reactors due to its corrosion resistance and, when combined with either tin (Nb₃Sn) or zirconium, it has a high degree of superconductivity.
A high purity material used as a source for sputtering, a cold vaporization process in which atoms are physically removed from the target surface by ion bombardment.