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Infrastructure Critical Minerals

As nations around the world invest in programs to strengthen and expand  transportation and other infrastructure systems, increasing attention is being focused on Niobium.  Why?  Because when added to steel, Niobium makes it stronger, lighter in weight, and highly resistant to corrosion. Niobium-contained High Strength, Low Alloy (HSLA) steel is increasingly used in buildings, bridges, dams, and other large construction and mega-steel projects. HSLA steel highly bridges with Niobium can be designed to last more than a century of use, as opposed to conventional highway bridges that may last only 30-40 years before having to undergo major repair work.

Scandium presents potentially revolutionary applications in transportation applications, which play a vital role in the ultimate cost of transportation infrastructure systems.  For example, Scandium’s potential to lightweight commercial jetliners, automotive applications, and mass transit systems may have major implications for transportation infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and other transportation hubs. 

Below are just a few examples of how these three superalloy materials are utilized in construction and infrastructure technologies around the world.

Aerospace Applications That Utilize NioCorp’s Planned Products

Lightweight Bridges

Using high strength, low-alloy steel that contained only .025% Niobium, the Millau Viaduct in the south of France was able to be constructed using 60% less steel and concrete. Niobium-strengthened steel also reduced the environmental impacts and costs of the project because less raw materials had to be transported and used in the bridge construction.

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.

Pipelines

The addition of Niobium to steel improves grain refining, retards recrystallization, and helps with precipitation hardening of the steel. This results in steel that is tougher, stronger, and more weldable.  That’s why Niobium-hardened steel is often required for use in high-pressure natural gas transmission pipelines in order to improve their operating life and safe operation.

Energy Exploration

Superalloy metals such as Niobium and Titanium can be used extensively in energy exploration and distribution systems, such as offshore energy platforms, wind energy turbines, oil and gas drilling technologies, ocean-going transport vessels, distribution pipelines, and many other systems. Superalloy metals help to keep the world’s population with the energy its needs to live and thrive.

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.

Advanced Construction Techniques

High Strength, Low Alloy steels made with Niobium, and high-performance alloys made with Titanium, are allowing for more efficient and environmentally beneficial construction techniques.  Structures made with these materials can use less raw materials, make better use of available land,  more efficient floor space utilization, less emissions, and fewer environmental impacts during construction.

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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