Using Niobium in Automotive Flat Steel results in Safer, Cheaper, and more Fuel-Efficient vehicles
High-strength low alloy (HSLA) steel grades are widely used in the manufacturing process of automotive flat steel. In fact, High strength steel can make up 40% of the weight of a car.
Niobium benefits auto manufacturers and consumers, resulting in cost savings and simultaneously improving the safety and reliability of the cars we drive. Niobium microalloying has been established in these steels as the most efficient element for obtaining grain refinement and precipitation strengthening. When niobium is added to these products it acts as a carbon stabilizer, providing the steel with increased mechanical strength and formidability – allowing it to undergo significant stress without failure.
About half of all steel produced worldwide is used in the construction industry. As structures become increasingly ambitious and complex, greater demands are placed on the performance of building materials and structural systems to ensure elegant, cost-effective and sustainable solutions. This has led to a greater reliance on microalloying with niobium to produce steels able to meet higher specifications. In 2000, an average approximate value of 40 grams of ferroniobium was added per tonne of steel, and this increased to 63 grams per tonne in 2020. Although niobium represents less than 0.5% of the total cost of producing steel, it adds significant value by improving strength, toughness, weldability etc. The use of niobium in high strength steel designs can also result in more clearance, greater design freedom and less congestion, which can be very important in certain types of structures, including offshore oil and gas platforms.
Up to 0.10% Nb X80 API steel for coils or plates allows for the design of pipelines with larger diameters that can increase transmission capacity, especially in long distance transmission pipelines. Using Nb steels in gas pipelines not only speeds up the adoption of a cleaner energy, but it also helps make the pipe safer. Pipeline safety depends on many variables. Currently more than 30% of safety incidents are caused by external forces damaging the pipe. Steels with up to 0.10% Nb are the best solution for pipelines combining high mechanical strength with enhanced toughness. Using niobium as a material component of a pipeline can lead to a significant reduction in defect, reducing rework, increasing productivity, and reducing production costs.
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner can weigh around 254,000 kg. and on average 10%, or 25,490 kg., of the weight of a Boeing 787 is made up of Steel. On a typical flight, the 787 can burn more than 5,400 l/ hr. – meaning that if you were to fly from London and New York, the plane would require as much as 43,000 L .
Carbon emissions from the airline industry grew by 75 per cent from 1990 to 2012. Aviation currently accounts for 12% of all CO2 emissions to our atmosphere, and without new technology and innovation, it is expected they will continue to grow rapidly until 2050.
Niobium can play an important role for airlines, passengers and ultimately our planet. By incorporating niobium in Aircraft design, both weight and fuel economy could be drastically improved.
Niobium is used in steel for jet engines and wing structures/ frames, super alloys for exhaust nozzles, and in semi-conductors.
The use of niobium oxide is gaining momentum as an additive in smart windows, which are designed to independently control the transmission of visible sunlight and solar heat into a building, thereby reducing energy use and improving occupant comfort. Smart glass responds to weather in real time, equalizing temperature and light according to defined levels of comfort.
Another potential benefit of niobium oxide in this application is that it provides separate, dynamic control over the transmission of visible and near infrared light. Studies involving niobium glass with nanomaterial show that niobium oxide glass with nanocrystals can produce dynamic switching behavior, enabling control of solar radiation transmittance. The glass blocks NIR and visible light selectively, and independently enhances optical contrast fivefold with 96% of charge capacity retained after 2,000 cycles.
Research is underway to improve production processes and extend application to polymer materials and coatings. Successful development could lead to windows that maintain a cool building in hot weather while allowing light, as well as reducing additional lighting and air conditioning costs.