It’s #41 on your periodic chart, Niobium. Used to be called Columbium, and it’s good for superconducting applications.
Last week I saw a rather large ingot of Niobium.
Plus a clean room assembled inside a school gymnasium.
And a homemade super-pure water system for the clean room; turns out really pure water is undrinkable – it’s too corrosive.
And a cryogenic freeze-thingy.
And a manufacturing floor with a mill (which rotates the part) and a lathe (which rotates the cutting tool instead of the part) and other CNC toys inside two classrooms.
Very fun. This is Niowave, which makes parts for atom-smashers and electron guns and such. Learned about RRR purity ratings for superconducting materials. And how you accelerate particles through chambers: you use magnets and switch the polarity at exactly the midpoint, so the particle is attracted in and then repulsed out – imagine the precision required to switch at the correct moment. Geek city.
What’s cool about this is that Niowave is a rapidly growing company, taking advantage of the infrastructure and skill base available in Lansing, where there’s a research community (Michigan State and nearby U of M) as well as leftover industrial equipment and skilled manufacturing workers.
They’re not going to re-employ all of GM any time soon, but it felt like a microcosm of the US economy, or publishing (my industry) for that matter – the way forward lies in innovation, not in maintenance.