This is a piece of niobium crystal. The crystal was donated by Jensan Scientifics as part of their periodic table element collection. They are also selling books, photographic periodic table posters, card decks and 3D prints based on the tables.
Niobium is a rare and expensive metal, but it has many useful applications. It is used in high-strength low-alloy steels to increase their strength, toughness and corrosion resistance. It can be combined with tungsten and molybdenum to make superalloys used in jet engines and other heat resistant equipment. It can be combined with titanium to create a very strong, light and durable alloy used in aircraft parts. It is used in superconducting magnets to increase their critical temperature and help maintain a magnetic field without losing energy, and it can be made into niobium carbide to improve the wear resistance of arc-welding rods . Niobium oxide (Nb2O3) can be coated with silicon to produce niobium-silicon carbide, which is used to make lightweight and scratch-resistant lenses for cameras and eyeglasses. Niobium nitride is an excellent coating for nuclear reactors. A niobium-germanium compound can be used as an anode in lithium batteries for better storage capacity .
Niobium is named after the Greek goddess Niobe, who wept for her children like an onion. It occurs mainly in the minerals columbite and pyrochlore, where it is often found with a second element, tantalum. It is difficult to separate the two elements from each other, which makes niobium expensive. It is often mixed with tin in the form of a columbium-tantalum alloy, known as niobium-tin or Nb-Ti, which is the main source for commercial niobium. It is used in a variety of electronic devices and digital cameras, as well as in the manufacture of niobium-tin-tungsten filaments for light bulbs.