Usage of tantalum-niobium ores

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Tantalum-niobium ores refer to the generic terms of minerals that contain tantalum and niobium, which totally have more than one hundred kinds of ores. Currently, tantalum-niobium ore has become the indispensable metal material in the high-technology industry. So what are the usages of tantalum-niobium ore on earth?

Tantalum and niobium, which belong to the refractory and rare metals, have similar physical and chemical properties and are always associated with each other in nature. They have high melting point, good plasticity, low vapor pressure, good electricity and heat conductivity, high chemical stability and big oxide film dielectric constant on the metal surface. Niobium has small thermal neutron capture cross section as well as strong acid and liquid metal corrosion resistance, which also has superconducting performances and other series of characteristics. Therefore, the usage of tantalum-niobium ore can be divided as following categories:

In the electronic industry, tantalum powder and tantalum wire are the key materials in making tantalum capacitors. As tantalum has small volume, big capacity, light weight, good reliability, large operating temperature range, good anti-vibration and long service life, it can be widely used in the mobile phones, computers, digital products, automobiles, aerospace electronics and other fields, in which about 60 percents of the world’s tantalum are used in producing tantalum capacitors. Tantalum and niobium targets can be used in the semiconductor devices and liquid crystal display technology; niobium oxide, niobium powder and niobium wire can be used in making ceramic capacitors and niobium capacitors; besides, the lithium tantalite single crystals and lithium niobate single crystal can be used to make surface acoustic wave components and optical communication components.

Niobium metal powder

In the metallurgical industry, niobium is mainly used in producing high-strength low-alloy steel, stainless steel, heat resistant steel, interstitial free steel, carbon steel, tool steel, rail steel and forged steel. Except for keeping high temperature resistance and corrosion resistance in these kinds of alloys, niobium can also have effects on refining grain and solid solution strengthening, which can effectively improve the strength and hardness of steel under high temperature, enhance the machining and welding performances of steel, prevent steel from corrosion and brittle rupture in the poor working environment and so on. About 90 percents of the world’s niobium are used in the steel industry. Superalloy can be produced by adding tantalum or niobium into nickel, cobalt and iron-base alloy or adding other metals into tantalum and niobium, which is the important structural material in the aerospace engines, land-based gas turbine engines, modern weapons and poor industrial environment facilities.

In the mechanical industry, cutters, drilling tools and other tools that are made by tantalum carbide, niobium carbide and other cemented carbides can withstand nearly high temperature of 3000 degrees Celsius, of which the hardness can be comparable to the diamond.

In the chemical industry, tantalum and niobium are the excellent acid and liquid metal corrosion resistant materials, which can be used in the digesters, heaters, coolers and other kinds of vessels.

In addition, tantalum and niobium as well as the tantalum-niobium alloy can be used as the atomic reactor cladding materials, high energy physical superconducting devices and medical surgical materials, etc.

Currently, the products made by tantalum and niobium mainly include tantalum powder (capacitor grade and metallurgical grade), tantalum wire, tantalum carbide, tantalum and tantalum alloy ingot, tantalum and tantalum alloy (plate, belt, pipe, rod and wire), tantalum target, tantalum oxide (used in industry, optical glass and high purity), lithium tantalum single crystal, ferroniobium, niobium nickel, niobium metal powder, niobium bar, niobium and niobium alloy ingot, niobium and niobium alloy (plate, belt, pipe, rod and wire), niobium oxide (used in industry, optical glass and high purity), niobium carbide, lithium niobate single crystal and so on.

In a manner of speaking, after nearly 50 years of development, tantalum-niobium industry in China has achieved the industrialization from mining, beneficiation, smelting and processing to applying. At present, except for meeting the demands of domestic economic development, tantalum and niobium products have gradually enter the international market, which shows the status and effects of Chinese tantalum niobium industry in the world.