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VISUAL CHEMISTRY

NIOBIUM

Niobium atom
Niobium ion
  Note: Can also exist as 1+, 2+, 3+ or 4+ ions.

What the name means: Niobium is named after Niobe, the daughter of Tantalos, from Greek mythology.

Who identified niobium? The story about the identification of Niobium starts in 1753 when a colonist in New England sent a sample of a mineral, called columbite, back to England. This sample was locked away in the British Museum for almost fifty years. Then, in 1801, Charles Hatchett analysed the mineral sample and found it to contain a new element that he named columbium. The names columbite and columbium were derived from Columbus (Christopher), the man who discovered America.

One year later, in 1802, a Finnish chemist called Anders Gustaf Ekeberg identified a new element in a local mineral. He called this new element tantalum. However, seven years later, William Hyde Wollaston announced that columbium and tantalum were, in fact, the same element. This conclusion was accepted for the next forty two years.

Wollastonís conclusion was proved incorrect by Heinrich Rose in 1846. He showed that there were two different elements involved. He kept Ekebergís name tantalum, but called the other element niobium since, in Greek mythology, Niobe was Tantalosís daughter.

There were now two names for the same element. In Europe element # 41 was known as niobium and in the USA it was known as columbium (Cb). This situation was resolved in 1950 when the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) adopted niobium.

However, even to this day, the name columbium is still sometimes used in the USA.

About niobium: Niobium is a silver-like metal that is resistant to corrosion. It ca be added in small amount to stainless steel to strengthen it.

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