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niobium processing

Introduction preparation of the ore for use in various products. Niobium (Nb) has a body-centred cubic (bcc) crystal structure and a melting point of 2,46 ! " (4,4#4! $). %f the refractory metals, it has the lo&est density and best &or'ability( for this reason, niobium-based alloys are often used in aerospace applications. )ecause of its strengthening effect at elevated temperatures, its principal commercial use is as an additive in steels and superalloys. Niobium-titanium and niobium-tin alloys are used as superconducting materials.

*istory Niobium &as discovered in + ,+ by an -nglish chemist, "harles *atchett. .ince *atchett/s mineral sample came from Ne& -ngland, he named it columbium ("b), after "olumbia, another name for 0merica. In + 44 *einrich 1ose, a 2erman chemist, announced his discovery of an element that he named niobium, after Niobe, the mythical daughter of 3antalus (&ho in turn gave his name to tantalum, &ith &hich niobium is often associated in minerals). Niobium &as later proved to be the same element as columbium, and niobium &as accepted as the official name by the International 4nion of 5ure and 0pplied "hemistry in +67,.

In 1905 W. von Bolton, a German chemist, succeeded in producing niobium in a pure, ductile state. Niobium was irst added to tool steel around 19!5 and was irst used to stabili"e austenitic stainless steel in 19##. Interest in adding niobium to high$strength low$allo% &'()*+ steel can be traced to the wor, in 19#9 o -... Bec,et and /. -ran,s, who demonstrated that niobium strengthening reduced reliance on conventional hardeners such as carbon, manganese, chromium, and mol%bdenum, thereb% improving weldabilit%. In 1950 Norman -. 1isdale o .ol%bdenum 2orporation o *merica added 0.0130.0#4 percent niobium to carbon steel as a grain re iner or improving toughness. 1he development o niobium$based allo%s or aerospace applications began in the late 1950s.
%res Niobium occurs mostly as an o8ide and has a strong geochemical coherence &ith tantalum. 9a:or minerals of niobium are pyrochlore ((Na, "a)2Nb2%6$; and columbite (($e, 9n)(Nb, 3a)2%6;, consisting of

and small Buantities of fluorspar and lime flu8es in a rotary mi8er and then unloaded into steel containers lined &ith magnesite refractory bric's. are first melted in an electric-arc furnace &ith the addition of a flu8 material.!E+. 5yrochlore occurs usually in carbonatites and in pegmatite derived from al'alic roc's. the concentrate is mi8ed &ith hematite (an iron ore). the )ra<ilian deposits are mined by the open-pit method. 3his o8ide may be reduced aluminothermically to produce niobium reguli (impure metallic globules). and reduction is initiated by the ignition of a mi8ture of aluminum po&der and sodium chlorate or barium pero8ide. aluminum po&der. @o&-tantalum tin slags. 3he ferroniobium alloy is then crushed to particle si<es of less than +. bulldo<ing. 3here are large pyrochlore mines in the )ra<ilian states of 9inas 2erais and 2oi=s and at . on the other hand. and then desliming and flotation separation. and rareearth minerals.4. loading. ?uebec. "oncentration of ore is accomplished by crushing and grinding. "an.niobate.!E+.. and the temperature reaches about 2.! $) to obtain niobium pento8ide. uranium. -8traction $erroniobium and refining 5yrochlore concentrates are commonly reduced to ferroniobium through an aluminothermic process. and transporting. enter the molten slag. In this process. *o&ever. *ere the charge is placed in circular concave pits made of a mi8ture of lime. Dhen the reaction is finished. 9ining in ?uebec follo&s underground methods... fluorspar. is mi8ed. titanium... as in the production of ferroniobium. iron. the slag is tapped off and the vessel is lifted. magnetic separation to remove magnetite. 9ining and concentrating )ecause of the altered and decomposed nature of overburden and ore materials. ground. 3his is follo&ed by a liBuid-liBuid e8traction process. at 6.. 3he tantalum is e8tracted as a fluoride in the organic solution. @arge columbite deposits are found in Nigeria and "ongo (Ainshasa)( also. percent iron.aint *onor>. &hile niobium remains in the aBueous residue. 3he tantalum-rich ore or ferroalloy is then crushed. 2 percent silicon. or calcined. 3he e8othermic reaction lasts about +7 to C. and +EC percent aluminum. and manganese.C7. 3he niobium is then precipitated from solution as a fluoride by the addition of ammonium hydro8ide. tantalate. and the tantalum-niobium content is collected as a ferroalloy.. 3he content of this alloy is 62E66 percent niobium. minutes. and decomposed in hydrofluoric acid. thorium. 3he ore is generally divided into bloc's and processed by ripping. columbite concentrates are obtained as by-products of tin mining in Nigeria. in &hich the t&o metals are dissolved in a slightly acidic aBueous feed solution into &hich an organic solvent. Niobium po&der "olumbite concentrates and tin slags &ith a high tantalum content (greater than +. millimetres (about three-eighths of an inch) for mar'eting. commonly in association &ith <irconium. they are usually mined as a byproduct of other metals.67.! $). or raffinate. leaving the metal to solidify in the sand.! " (+.! " (4. 3he reguli may be further . 9ost of the gangue impurities from the concentrate. "olumbite is normally found in intrusive pegmatite and biotite and in al'alic granites. usually methyl isobutyl 'etone. . including all the thorium and uranium o8ides. since most such deposits are small and erratically distributed. and silica sand. and the filter ca'e is dried and roasted. 26EC. percent) are directly dressed in most cases by a &et chemical process.

and energy industries for stronger. 0lso..7-percent-niobium are used in various parts of nuclear reactors. such as D"-+. -lectrical uses . 3he metal and its alloys . Hemands in the construction. it prevents the formation of chromium carbide.C (niobiumE+. . niobiumE+-percent<irconium.+. a purification of the metal ta'es place. tougher. more formable.7-percent-<irconium) are &idely used in roc'et no<<les and reentry guides o&ing to their good &or'ability and strengths at elevated temperatures. &hich is then reheated and dehydrided in a vacuum to produce niobium po&der. by means of a suitable dra&ing process. $erritic stainless steels also use niobium for the stabili<ation of interstitial impurities such as carbon and o8ygen in order to avoid intergranular corrosion. Huring vacuum sintering.percent-hafniumE+.!E4. the impure niobium is crushed into chun's and placed in a furnace. *ydrogen is then fed to the furnace and passed over the charge for t&o to four hours.-percent-hafniumE+-percent-titanium).47. and "b-#72 (niobiumE+.intering is carried out in a vacuum at 2. 3he addition of niobium to stainless steel generally forms carbide precipitates. the final components can be fabricated to precise tolerances &ithout intermediate heat treatment. transportation. acting as a grain refiner and further improving the toughness and strength of the steel.#7. thereby improving creep resistance and toughness. it precipitates as a carbide or nitride. D"-+26I (niobiumE+.+7. &hich bring about a beneficial dispersion hardening effect in the matri8( at the same time.. and <irconiumE2.! $).-percent-tungstenE. Niobiumbased alloys. for &hich discharge tubes are made of niobium and + percent <irconium. 0fter hydriding.. 3he po&der can be pressed &ith a mechanical or isostatic press into FgreenG (that is. leading to an improvement of its mechanical properties. . "orrosion-resistant and high-temperature alloys 0 successful development in the conservation of energy has been the high-pressure sodium lamp. or they may be put through a hydriding and dehydriding process to produce niobium po&der.!E2. so that the bra<ed :oint bet&een them is Buite reliable in service. Dhen directresistance is applied. and it has almost the same e8pansion coefficient as the alumina tube to &hich it is attached. Niobium.! $). 9any grades of martensitic stainless steel contain niobium for refinement of the grain si<e. 3he temperature is increased in stages to permit the evaporation of impurities and to prevent the sudden release of gas. In the hydriding process.! " (C.-percent-tungstenE 2.purified by electron-beam melting into ingots.. &hen niobium e8ceeds its solubility limit in the steel matri8.E67 percent of the theoretical ma8imum and then sintered.teels.! " (+.C. the niobium is crushed and pulveri<ed to fine po&der..!E67. 3his alloy is chemically resistant to sodium vapour at .47.. 0s noted above. &hich &ould have a detrimental embrittling effect on the material. either by direct-resistance heating or by indirect heating.@0 steels. the addition of niobium to these steels gives rise to the improved properties &hile allo&ing a decreased use of carbon and manganese.!E+.! " (+. and more &eldable steel have brought the development of the family of *. unfired) compacts &ith a density of 6.! $).+-percent-yttrium). &hich is evacuated and heated to . electrical contact is made via &ater-cooled copper clamps &ith bra<ed tungsten facings. 3he material is very ductile at lo& temperatures( therefore.

eyeglasses. a transparent. and can convert electrical energy to acoustic &aves &ith efficiency. "hemical Niobium glass compounds %ptical glasses containing up to C.. communications systems. magnetically levitated trains. relatively hard. Niobiumtitanium. . -lectro-optical modulators are used for modulating or encoding information on laser beams in laser communications systems. 3he electro-optical effect. 3his advantage has led to the &ide use of niobium glasses in lenses for cameras. also 'no&n as the 5oc'els effect.). @ithium niobate . is particularly suitable for electro-optical applications. have lo& high-freBuency losses. percent niobium pento8ide have high refractive indices. is an optical phenomenon in &hich the refractive inde8 of a medium varies linearly &ith an applied electrical field. and television receivers. copying machines. high-energy physics. )ecause niobium has the highest transition temperature (6. . niobium alloys are the most practical choice for superconducting applications. among metals. because they e8hibit large electromechanical coupling factors. converts an acoustic &ave to an 1$ output. and other optical instruments. or J44C! $. and niobium-tin alloys are indispensable for the application of superconductivity in machinery.uperconductivity is the total disappearance of electrical resistance belo& a definite temperature called the transition temperature.ingle crystals of lithium niobate are particularly suitable for these applications. and dense material that resembles clear glass. conversely. Niobate transducers are used in radar.ingle-crystal lithium niobate. &hich allo& lenses to be much thinner and lighter than ordinary ones. niobium-<irconium.C A (J264! ". and magnetic resonance imaging. 0 pie<oelectric transducer is a device that produces an acoustic &ave from a radio-freBuency (1$) input or.