Environmentally Critical Minerals
Niobium, Scandium, and Titanium all have important uses in many environmentally preferred technologies that help to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. For example:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 gearboxes to operate longer and more reliably.
- 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 than if Niobium wasn’t used. Fewer raw materials also had to be transported and used in the bridge construction, which further reduced environmental impacts.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.