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Environmentally Critical Minerals

Niobium, Scandium, and Titanium all have important uses in various environmental and clean energy technologies.  These include the following:

  • Renewable energy systems such as solar, wind, and geothermal power generation
  • Low-emission electricity generation from fuels cells
  • Water purification and desalination systems
  • Lighter-weight and fuel-efficient vehicles and commercial jets that reduce fuel consumption and air emissions
  • High performance vehicle emissions systems
  • Next-generation battery technologies
  • Stronger and lighter-weight buildings and infrastructure systems, which reduce energy consumption and emissions
  • High-voltage transmission power lines

 

Environmental and Clean Energy Applications That Utilize NioCorp’s Planned Products

Commercial Jetliners

Alloys made with Niobium, Scandium and Titanium are used in commercial jetliners to provide strength, increased operational performance, and resistance to corrosion.  These alloys also help to reduce the mass of the jetliner, which increases fuel efficiency and reduces air emissions.  In particular, alloys made with Scandium and Aluminum promise to deliver extraordinary environmental benefits to aviation systems.

Lightweight Bridges

Niobium-strengthened steel reduced the environmental impacts of the world’s tallest bridge — the Millau Viaduct in the south of France — by allowing it to be constructed using 60% less steel and concrete that if Niobium wasn’t used.  Fewer raw materials also had to be transported and used in the bridge construction, which further reduced environmental impacts.

Windpower Turbines

Wind turbines are being constructed at taller heights — some as much as 100 meters high — so that they can take advantage of better and more consistent wind speeds. Larger rotor diameters also allow for more energy efficient energy generation. But these taller towers require extra-strong materials.  Increasingly, niobium-containing high-strength steel is meeting this need.  Niobium steels also are helping wind turbine gear boxes to operate longer and more reliably.

SOFCs

Scandium is a critical component to the efficient operation of Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs), which produce highly reliable electricity generation with relatively low emissions.  According to Bloom Energy, SOFCs currently used by such companies and organizations as Yahoo, Ebay, Google, FedEx, NASA, DoD and many others.  

High Performance Buildings

With the increasing structural demands placed on buildings today, the use of High Strength, Low Alloy steel is increasingly required.  HSLA steel with Niobium helps make today’s buildings safer, more energy efficient, and less costly.  It also provides building designers with significantly more flexibility in their designs.

Desalination

Because Titanium is so resistant to seawater and the highest strength-to-density ratio of any metallic element, it is used extensively in the global desalination industry.  Titanium helps clean-water-derived areas around the world produce potable water from the ocean.

Batteries

Toshiba reportedly is developing higher energy density batteries with titanium niobium oxide anodes for use in electric vehicles. The company’s “SCiB” betters use lithium titanium oxide in the battery’s anode to increase safety, extend operational life, improve performance in low-temperature environments, provide more rapid re-charging, and increase the battery’s effective capacity.

Solar

According to Niobium producer CBMM, Niobium oxide can play a key role in making transparent conductive glass, which helps photovoltaic solar panels maximize their efficiency and durability and increase their operational life. 

Superalloy Blog Posts

The Powerful Benefits of Ferroniobium for Bridges

The Powerful Benefits of Ferroniobium for Bridges

As the U.S. looks to repair crumbling infrastructure systems, I expect to see more high-performance steels (HPS) used in structures like bridges because of the many powerful benefits they deliver. HPS steels containing a small amount of ferroniobium – which NioCorp plans to produce in southeast Nebraska at our Elk Creek Superalloy Materials Project once we are funded and in operation – are among the strongest and most durable steels on the market today.

BEYOND COVID-19:  A Resurgence of Domestic Supply Chains?

BEYOND COVID-19: A Resurgence of Domestic Supply Chains?

One global macro trend is highly likely to accelerate in the aftermath of COVID-19:  increased investment in domestic materials supply chains as a means of reducing the reliance of Western nations on supply chains in developing nations. Asia’s dominance in many strategic supply chains has become painfully obvious since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted.

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