41Nb Niobium

Year Discovered


Discovered By

Charles Hatchett of England

Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.


Named for Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus, from Greek mythology, niobium is a soft, shiny, bluish-white metal. It is unaffected by water or alkalis but does react with warm air, and hot acids. Niobium is used in alloys, especially with steel. Like zirconium, it is not affected by neutron bombardment. Consequently, it is also used in nuclear reactor vessels. Niobium is alloyed with zirconium to make superconducting magnets. It also is used in jet and rocket engines. It sometimes is used in jewelry due to its bluish color when oxidized. Until 1950, niobium was known as columbium.

Biological Benefits

Niobium has no known biological use.

Role in Life Processes

No known benefits for life processes.

Percentage Amount in the Human Body: 0.000002%


Niobium is present in many minerals. The minerals pyrochlore and to lesser extent, betafite, columbite, and samarskite are mined for niobium. It also is produced as a by-product of tin processing. Niobium has been identified as critical by the U.S. Geological Survey. It is mined in Brazil and Canada, and there is a project in progress to again mine it in the U.S.