Niobium, formerly columbium, is a chemical element with symbol Nb (formerly Cb) and atomic number 41. It is a soft, grey, ductile transition metal, which is often found in the pyrochlore mineral, the main commercial source for niobium, and columbite.
Niobium has physical and chemical properties similar to those of the element tantalum, and the two are therefore difficult to distinguish. It is used mostly in alloys, the largest part in special steel such as that used in gas pipelines. Although these alloys contain a maximum of 0.1%, the small percentage of niobium enhances the strength of the steel. The temperature stability of niobium-containing superalloys is important for its use in jet and rocket engines. Niobium is used in various superconducting materials. These superconducting alloys, also containing titanium and tin, are widely used in the superconducting magnets of MRI scanners.