Niobium and its alloys have high melting points and are, therefore, used in high temperature engineering products (for use at temperatures in excess of 1200°C). It is also used as an alloying agent for certain steels where it greatly improves the strength of the resulting material. Niobium also finds applications in atomic reactors due to its corrosion resistance and, when combined with either tin (Nb3Sn) or zirconium, it has a high degree of superconductivity.
Tantalum can be used as a replacement for platinum for laboratory apparatus which has to have good corrosion resistance, and the metal is also used within the chemical industry for similar reasons. The fluids in the human body do not react with the metal and, hence, it is used for surgical implants without rejection. Other applications include the use of tantalum carbide in cemented carbides which are used as cutting tools. Pure metal is used in the electronics industry in the manufacture of various types of electronic equipment (e.g. rectifiers, capacitors, lamp filaments, etc.). Tantalum is also used in vacuum systems as it has a high absorption rate for residual gases. It is also used as an alloying element with, for example, nickel and molybdenum, to produce alloys that have good corrosion resistance, strength, and ductility.
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