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Plating on Niobium

Once known as Columbium, Niobium is a silver-grey metal represented by atomic number 41 and Nb on the periodic table. Like Tungsten and Molybdenum, Niobium is a member of the refractory metals group. Refractory metals are some of the strongest on the periodic table and possess the greatest thermal resistance capabilities of all solid elements

Niobium, however, differs slightly from the rest of its refractory metal peers. It is the softest of the refractory family, making it more flexible. With increased flexibility combined with the extremely high thermal resistance levels, Niobium components can operate under extreme conditions of heat without losing their hardness. These qualities make Niobium an incredibly unique material that is utilized in an abundance of industries.

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Plating on Refractory Metals

Refractory metals are a small group of strong metals that have melting points beyond 2000 °C and are chemically inert. These qualities make refractory metals like Niobium, a useful substrate in a variety of industries. However, unlike light and common metals such as aluminum, copper, and nickel, refractory metals present a more unique challenge during their plating processes.

The biggest difference between plating onto refractory metals versus plating onto common metals is that the aqueous solution (chemical bath) used in the typical electroplating process is ineffective when trying to adhere ions to the surface of a refractory substrate. Other processes, like fused-salt electrolysis, must be done to properly plate directly onto a pure refractory metal such as Niobium or Tungsten

Refractory metals are often alloyed with other metals such as iron, nickel, and copper. This simultaneously improves the chemical and physical properties of the original light metals, while making it easier to plate/coat the surface of a refractory metal.

Common Niobium finishes include:

Much like other refractory metals, Niobium can be quite a challenge to plate. Luckily, AOTCO provides over 50 years of surface finishing expertise to help find the best finish for your Niobium components. Some of the most common Niobium finishes include

  • Nickel
  • Nickel (as a base layer)
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Platinum

Frequently Asked Questions

About

Once known as Columbium, Niobium is a silver-grey metal represented by atomic number 41 and Nb on the periodic table. Like Tungsten and Molybdenum, Niobium is a member of the refractory metals group. Refractory metals are some of the strongest on the periodic table and possess the greatest thermal resistance capabilities of all solid elements

Niobium, however, differs slightly from the rest of its refractory metal peers. It is the softest of the refractory family, making it more flexible. With increased flexibility combined with the extremely high thermal resistance levels, Niobium components can operate under extreme conditions of heat without losing their hardness. These qualities make Niobium an incredibly unique material that is utilized in an abundance of industries.

Benefits of Plating on Niobium
Due to their incredible strength and thermal capabilities, refractory metals like Niobium often make for a high performing and durable component. However, these qualities can be improved upon even further with a proper surface finishing solution. Depending on the material deposited, some of the most notable benefits of plating on Niobium include:
  • Increased Resistance to Corrosion / Oxidation
  • Increased Thermal Resistance
  • Increased Strength with Minimal Change to Weight
  • Aesthetically Pleasing Finish
  • Reduce Component Maintenance
Common Industry Applications for Niobium Substrates
While all refractory metals are unique from the rest of the metals on the periodic table, Niobium differs even further. Due to it being the most flexible and softest of all the refractory metals, Niobium is highly sought after in the aerospace industry. Incredibly versatile with impressive thermal resistance, Niobium is found in Aerospace components such as:
  • Rocket Engines
  • Jet Turbines
  • Thermal Barrier Coatings
  • Gas Turbine Baldes
  • And many more!
Note: While the aerospace industry is the uses the highest percentage of pure Niobium, many aerospace applications of Niobium substrates feature the use of lighter Niobium alloys, rather than pure Niobium. For more information about available Niobium plating, metal finishing, Military Specs, AMS Specs and ASTM Specs, visit AOTCO Military Plating Specs page.
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