Niobium


In 1801, C. Hatchett found an unknown ore at the time during the analysis of some chromium minerals from Connecticut. He called this mineral "columbite", and the corresponding element "columbium", because it had been discovered in an American mineral. One year later, in 1802, A. G. Ekeberg discovered a new element in Finnish minerals similar to the columbite and named it "tantalum". This name derives of the god Tantalus, of the Greek mythology, in allusion to the enormous difficulty to dissolve the mineral in acids. In 1844, H. Rose found two new elements in a sample of columbite of Bodenmais. They were similar to the Ekeberg's tantalum and were called "niobium", in honor of Niobe, mythological daughter of Tantalus and goddess of the tears. Sainte-Claire Deville and Troost made the distinction between tantalum and niobium, and determined the formulas of some of its compounds. The columbium of Hatchett was probably a mixture of these two elements, although the term has been used later on as synonymous of "niobium". Blomstrand prepared the metal for the first time in 1866 by reduction of niobium chloride with hydrogen.