Written by Kfir Kedem – March 04, 2021
Reviewed by Asaf Kedem
Niobium is a naturally found non-ferrous metal. CBMM (Companhia Brasileira de Metalurgia e Mineração) has several initiatives to bring Nobium to engineering applications. CBMM gets its niobium from its Brazilian mine, Niobium – further referred to as Niobium Technologies.
Although testing is still needed to make a definite conclusion, CBMM has released a white paper that claims that once the niobium is mined, niobium oxide can be used as an additive to many engineering applications. The first being automotive batteries. When adding niobium oxide to the average lithium-ion battery, it will have increased energy storage as well as an increased capacity of charging cycles. Furthermore, the battery will be able to operate under lower temperatures. Adding niobium oxide to a lithium-ion battery will also make it more robust and reduce the risk of short circuits and fires that may be caused.
Other applications can be found through improvement of solar panel glass by the addition of niobium oxide. The further improved the glass’s properties are, the more efficient the solar panel can be in retaining the solar energy. This goes further than just glass and into the development of smart windows. Niobium oxide is a component that helps control the transmission of visible sunlight as well as the solar heat.
Adding this material to automotive structural alloys helps improve the structure ductility while decreasing its weight. CBMM have partnered with BAC Mono, the road legal Formula 3-based car, to develop a niobium infused chassis. CBMM also has other initiatives testing niobium within braking systems as the ductility of the material should result in less wear over time.
Auto Trendy’s take:
The Niobium Technologies research is quite interesting, and the potential applications are fascinating. By implementing niobium into engineering applications, the lifecycle of products could last longer, which will cause a lower carbon-footprint over the long-term. CBMM and Niobium Technologies seem to have split their research into several categories in which solar panels and smart windows are not directly related to automotive applications. These should be part of the automotive industry and if they function the way they are described would lead to many benefits. The added efficiency of solar energy storage will have obvious charging and range benefits. Additionally, the smart windows will be more than beneficial for drivers when the sun is too bright or when their car is left out in the sun for too long. With a control over the transmission of solar heat, the problem of coming back to a car that feels like an oven in the peak of summer will no longer exist.