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Titanium Diboride Materials Selection Paper


Titanium Diboride is a hard compound that consists of Titanium and Boron. Titanium Diboride is useful in designing various products (Huber, 3000). One such product is a capacitor. Apart from capacitors, Titanium Diboride is used in the making of extremely hard materials such as army wares and ceramic cutting materials. The compound also has excellent electricity conductivity capability. This makes the metal valuable in electronic and special device production (Huber, 3000). The compound is rare to find. It is also extremely expensive because of the tedious manner of extraction. The compound does not react with non-ferrous metals such as Copper and Zinc (Seliger, 28). When processing these materials or products, therefore, the compound is extremely useful (Beer, 670). For example, the making of crucibles, vacuum metallization components, and electrodes depends on Titanium Diboride. The compound is also a filler component (Huber, 3000) especially with polymer matrices and other engineering components that require the use of a filler component (Seliger, 28). Because of their rare availability, the compounds are sometimes produced in a lab.

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The process involves a long and drawn process and is usually more expensive than when the compound can be found naturally (Beer, 669). Alternatives have been sought to replace the compound’s usage. However, the most crucial addition to this compound is its ease of fabrication after addition of a lot of pressure. In a process called EDM, the compound can be heat-pressed and molded into different shapes, which helps in the making of complex shapes that can conduct electricity (Beer, 689). It is found in a variety of powders. Different grades refer to the purity of the product. The two most common grades are HCT30 and HCTF (Huber, 3000). The former contains Carbon, Nitrogen, and Oxygen. It also has a high purity. The latter is used in situations that do not require particle reduction. It requires the usage of mainly hard metals. Additionally, it is a better conductor of electricity (Beer, 680). This paper will examine niobium as a perfect alternative for Titanium Diboride (Marshall, 1175). In this light, niobium’s favorable characteristics will be weighed against Titanium Diboride. Additionally, the paper will advance other alternatives with the aim of comparing with niobium and Titanium Diboride (Marshall, 1175). The paper will provide a political and environmental cost analysis of niobium. Finally, the paper will examine closely the costs associated with niobium as the most favorable alternative (Beer, 680).

Material Properties

Capacitors are an important addition to any electronic product. The study will look into capacitors as the products to be duplicated (Marshall, 1175). Capacitors can be produced from different materials such glass, mica, paper and ceramics (Huber, 3180). While there are different types of capacitors, Titanium Diboride produces the best product. For example, they have high dielectric performances, commendable performance under high temperatures, high leakage, and comparably better performance under very high frequencies (Marshall, 1175). Because of these reasons, the highly unavailable Titanium Diboride is quite fundamental (Marshall, 1175). All electronics manufacturers need capacitors, as they are the core of completion of circuits (Beer, 680). To duplicate the results of Titanium Diboride, manufacturers have dedicated so many resources. However, only few metals and products have come close to matching the performance. However, niobium is billed as a highly probable replacement with the introduction of new technology to match Titanium Diboride in capacitors (Marshall, 1175).

A capacitor should have the following characteristics. First, a capacitor should have the capability to store energy. A capacitor retains a certain amount of energy in any complete circuit. Storage of energy is crucial in devices that will require the energy to start again. For example, a car engines may lose all energy once switched off making it hard to restart (Marshall, 1175). A capacitor serves that purpose. Secondly, capacitors correct the power factor. In uneven circuits, capacitors are used in threes to enable the inductive loading from main sources of energy. This ensures that such circuits are not dangerous for human beings operating machines with such circuits. Third, capacitors have the ability to pass only AC signals (Marshall, 1175). Additionally, they block DC signals. This capability (known as signal coupling) is quite crucial in the manufacture of certain products such as Radio Frequency Interference (RFIs) (Marshall, 1175). The characteristics can be tweaked to include “snubber” and starting capacitors to make use of this function further (Marshall, 11745). The function is particularly important in high frequency products such oil exploration machines. Fourth, capacitors are crucial in sensory machines such as in hospitals. Their energy storage capability comes in handy in the production of heart machines and other highly sensitive products (Marshall, 1174). Hence, their component replacements should not undermine this fact.

Comparison with other Materials

Niobium is billed as highly probable replacement for Titanium Diboride in the production of capacitors (Marshall, 1175). While it does not meet most of the characteristics above, the production and usage has been met with technology that tries to tweak it to fit the bill. For example, niobium has been mixed with other metals in a laboratory setting to meet the characteristics of Titanium Diboride (Marshall, 1175). This includes heating under high pressure. However, the availability of niobium is a question. It is available in countries whose political stability is questionable (Huber, 3109). However, the fact that it is not centrally located like Titanium Diboride makes it a more viable option in that regard (Seliger, 28). Notably, the use of Titanium Diboride chip capacitors has greatly reduced over the years owing to the scarcity of Titanium Diboride and the adoption of other alternatives. The most popular of the alternatives is the use of niobium chip capacitors (Seliger, 28). The capacitance of niobium powder is the main driver of the new adoption. Niobium’s capacitance stands at 80,000-110,000 CV/gram (Huber, 3100) which is almost equivalent to Titanium Diboride and other powders. Because of the worldwide availability of niobium, pricing flexibility is available. Additionally, the possibility of a political standoff that cripples usage of noble metals is completely negated (Seliger, 28). It is also crucial to note that niobium caps can easily replace Titanium Diboride caps for capacitance-oriented capacitors (Huber, 3000) because addition of some laboratory chemicals greatly increases resistance in niobium (Seliger, 28). However, niobium’s ability in technical terms to replace Titanium Diboride is a source of expert discussion and critical evaluation (Seliger, 28). The jury is still out in that front. However, niobium is the newest and best replacement available so far for capacitors whose chips mainly contained Titanium Diboride (Huber, 3000).

Other (Reasonable) Materials Examined

There are other alternatives available to replace Titanium Diboride chip capacitors. However, because of various reasons, they do not surpass or replace niobium in the race to reduce over dependence on Titanium Diboride. One of them is a possible redesign of the “capacitative” architecture (Huber, 3000). X2Y Attenuators, according to experts, creates higher performance and reduces dependence of filtering and decoupling options (Seliger, 28). This creates high caps and better resistance 4. The other option is usage of solid polymer aluminum (Seliger, 28). Though they have lower levels capacitance range, they have better resistance and longer life cycles (Huber, 3000). The other option is a ceramic capacitor (Seliger, 28). This capacitor is quite cheap compared to all the other options it is also readily available. However, not all facets of performance match other alternatives. This makes it affordable in the eye of manufacturers (Blight, 89).

Processing Methods and Availability

Quantity Availability Examination of the Replacement Material

Niobium is a readily available alternative. It is globally available. Many countries can procure the product and manufacturers can easily make it available in the market. The ores that contain niobium are also quite huge making its depletion a rare occurrence (Huber, 3010). It is available in countries such as Congo, South Africa, and Kenya, in South American nations, Asian nations and in Australia in relatively large quantities (Seliger, 28). It is available in a host of other countries although exploration may not make economic sense because of the availability in large quantities in the countries mentioned above (Seliger, 28). Hence, niobium is a favorable replacement of Titanium Diboride in terms of meeting market demand. The countries may supply the world requirement for the manufacture of niobium for the next 10 decades without even reaching half the deposits according to experts (Blight, 89).

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Environmental and Political “Costs” of the Material

Exploration of niobium poses no environmental concern. First, it does not lead to global warming in its pure form (Huber, 3020). The process, as in any manufacturing process, may lead to global warming, but niobium’s pure form does not. Unlike Titanium Diboride, which experts say has mild global warming implications, niobium does not making it an even better replacement in that front. Unlike Titanium Diboride whose production and availability is in hostile nations such as Congo, niobium is readily available in nations that pose no political danger. This makes production easy for manufacturers (Huber, 3000). The countries can produce and manufacture niobium to the global market making the prices affordable for most manufacturers. Hence, the product is relatively cheap. The new material also brings about the concept of longevity of the production of capacitors without worry. With the global population set to increase, two fold in the next 30 years and economic (Seliger, 28) expansion expected in many countries demand for electronics will quadruple according to experts. Hence, the use of niobium provides the perfect cover in light of this (Blight, 89).

Cost Analysis for the Material

Manufacturers cost of production will greatly reduce in a regime where niobium is used in place of Titanium Diboride in the production of chips for capacitors. The availability of niobium globally will greatly reduce “political costs”. In volatile countries where Titanium Diboride is found, majorly in Africa, political instability has greatly hampered supply of Titanium Diboride (Seliger, 28). The demand has therefore not been satisfied. Usage of niobium, which is naturally occurring in various countries across virtually all continents, will reduce costs. It will also increase competition, which will have an overall effect of value addition and cost reduction (Seliger, 28). The infrastructure in some of the countries in where niobium is occurring is readily available (Blight, 89). This includes roads, machinery, and economic goodwill unlike in African countries such as Congo, Nigeria, and Mozambique. The infrastructure will have an overall positive impact in reducing costs associated with capacitors production.

Titanium Diboride production has been hampered by non-governmental organizations for a long time. This factor brings about the issue of ethical responsibility of companies (Huber, 3100). Companies should strive to operate in an environment where international labor practices are adhered. In Congo, for example, rebels continue to use child soldiers and employees to safe guard their territories (Marshall, 1175). The implication is that these children do not get education and live distraught conditions. When the products they partake in production hit the market, most global organizations hamper their marketability by raising the ethical question. However, the manufacturers do not have an option (Huber, 3110). Use of niobium will create many options for the manufacturers and effectively lift the ethical barrier. The cost of advertising “buying out” territories and controlling them to remain relevant will be eliminated too (Blight, 89).

Table 1: Availability of ores.

Titanium Diboride Availability Niobium Availability
Country %age Availability Country %age Availability
Congo 40% of world total Congo Less than 10%
Mozambique 7% of the world ores available here Mozambique Less than 5%
Nigeria Around 5% of the world ores Nigeria Less than 10%
Other countries The other countries control the rest of the ores Other countries Over 75% of the world ores

Table 1 above indicates the availability levels of these two naturally occurring metals. Niobium, as table 1 above shows is spread out across many world countries (Seliger, 28). This flexibility makes it hard for political strife to interfere with its production. The outgoing is the case with Titanium Diboride (Huber, 3000). Physicists and engineers prefer this metal in the production of semi conductors. However, its production and manufacture is hampered by political, social, and governmental structures in the countries they are abundantly found (Blight, 89). Although the countries are making strides towards the betterment of their current state, engineers are already moving towards other options as noted above (Marshall, 1175). Over the last decade, the cost of producing and manufacturing Titanium Diboride has quadrupled. Despite the increase in prices, Titanium Diboride availability has drastically reduced. Market dynamics characterized by increase in demand for the metal and constantly reducing supply have experienced hiccups. The price increase means that other options are increasingly gaining traction to fight possible shortages. The leading option so far is niobium whose advantages have been listed previously in this paper (Blight, 89).

Still on the cost associated with non-availability of Titanium Diboride, global warming is currently been discussed by experts extensively. Global warming according to experts will continuously and gradually erode the ‘naturalness’ in the world and bring with it catastrophic consequences. These resources did not necessarily have the direct effect of reducing costs. However, the self-regulation by all stakeholders involved would go a long way in reducing wastages and hence curtailing a growing trend in the depletion of the scarce naturally found resources (Blight, 89).

Flexural strength of material.
Figure 1: Flexural strength of material.

Application in Construction Designs

The start of the 21st century reveals the beginning of “calculating carbon” and “measuring efficiency”. This phase has established the measurements of CO2/m2/year as common factors in environmental evaluation of buildings. The principal indicator on building performance during this phase was based on measuring carbon emissions. Governments had also joined the clamor for suitable construction through legislations especially in the developed world. Credible research had also indicated a trend where massive chunks of the housing market appreciated sustainable solutions, as global warming became a possibility. The world resources were on the verge of depletion in light of burgeoning populations.

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The sustainability phenomenon has resulted in an abundance of green building rating tools and frameworks around the world to evaluate property development against a collection of “sustainability criteria”. Green Building Councils are members of the World Green Building Council; and on its respective country are conformed by partnerships between government and private organizations that have worked in collaboration to develop Green Building rating tools. Internationally the most widely recognized rating system includes LEED, BREEAM, Green Star, CASBEE, SICES, and EEWH. Research demonstrates substantial disparity in terms of the global methodology (i.e. LEED, BREEAM and Green Star) to be applied in order to evaluate sustainability criteria in the building sector. This project further progresses the demonstration in subsequent sections as clear and arguably critical reasons emerge to support these differences. This discrepancy can be explained by several factors. Perhaps one of the most influential factors is that each of the rating systems was conceived and adapted to a specific geographical context that employs unique characteristics in terms of environmental conditions, politics and legislation, industry sector and socio-economic structures. For instance, BREEAM methodology is tailored, and therefore, better applied and representative when assessing the sustainability performance of the building industry in the United Kingdom than anywhere else in the world. Adaptation of a generic rating may also contribute to apathy in governments and demographics that are yet to ingratiate sustainability solutions. The concept, aims, and noble causes of the whole sustainability endeavor ought to be communicated world over, but development of systems upon which to implement it left to specific geographic areas. However, certain platforms or benchmarks may highlight the crust upon which to develop.

Furthermore, the topics for building assessment vary according to different weightings and categories. LEED 2009 grants an overall score of 110 points with a weighting system that considers 23.6% to sustainable sites, 9.1% to water efficiency, 31.9% to energy and atmosphere, 12.7% to material and resources, 13.6% to indoor environmental quality, 5.5% to innovation and design, and 3.6% to regional priority. The overall score for BREEAM 2011 goes up to 110% and its weighting system considers: 10% to land use and ecology, 6% to water, 19% to energy, 12.5% to materials, 15% to health and wellbeing, 8% to transport, 7.5% to waste, 10% to pollution, 12% to management and 10% to innovation.

Results and Analysis

Case Study 1: Pixel Building


In terms of sustainable materials intended to minimise carbon emissions, the strategies included the following.

Using the “Pixelcrete” concrete, which has been shown to halve the embodied carbon of the mix when compared with traditional 40 MPA concrete mix designs. The pixelcrete concrete is used as a substitute for the normal concrete mix-design as it contains less impact on environment containing 60% less cement and achieves the same strength as the traditional concrete.

Pixel Building.
Figure 2: Pixel Building.
  • Using unique external shading material to minimise solar thermal loads by cutting or bouncing off harmful emissions that eat away the ozone layer,
  • That ensures minimal carbon emission from gas usage in the building for heating purpose. Additionally, using a “gas fired absorption chiller” that employs ammonia refrigerant, as it has no ozone depleting potential or any possibility of legionella. The latter is different than the traditional chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) which has a negative impact on ozone layer and upper atmosphere, and
  • Designing renewable energy systems into the building, consisting of fixed and tracking photovoltaic and wind turbines on the roof, in addition to a small amount of biogas produced from an anaerobic digester connected to the vacuum toilet black water system.

Case Study 2: VSI Building


In terms of sustainable strategies intended to minimise carbon emissions, the strategies included:

  • An assessment on how to use low Volatile Organic Component (VOC) to gas carpets, paints, sealants and adhesives to reduce emissions. While VOC is included in many materials of construction, using Low VOC building material and furnishing can reduce the emission of smog-forming in a very dramatically way. It can also minimise the occurrence of irritations that related to humans such as headache and eye irritations.
  • Using low formaldehyde off-gassing joinery,
  • Monitored recycling of over 90% of construction and demolition waste,
  • Using non-poly vinyl chloride (PVC) piping, conduits, sub-mains, flooring and blinds, The PVC is a third most common used plastic due to its effectiveness in construction and building materials. However the density of plastic that PVC has is higher than any other plastic, therefore it was not used in this building as it leads to higher carbon emissions a measure that reduces a rating score,
VSI building.
Figure 3: VSI building.
  • Replacing 20% of Portland cement in concrete with fly ash, Portland cement is a high carbon-containing product, which omits carbon during the hydration process when used in concrete or mortar. On the other hand if fly ash, which is a waste material, generated after coal-burning process is used it reduces the amount of carbon during the hydration process.
  • It details how to use a highly specified and sensitive western veil in front of the building skin to minimise solar loads. This veil controls the amount of sunlight that enters the building can be adjusted according to the human requirements.
  • Usage of ETFE roof over full height central atrium to facilitate natural light into the heart of the building is discussed. ETFE is a polymer and its source-based name is poly (ethene-co-tetrafluoroethene), and its film is self-cleaning (due to its non-stick surface) and recyclable.
  • Using exhaust riser for printer and photocopy rooms that improves the indoor air quality as part of a wider solution to tackling carbon emissions and their effect,
  • Employing humidity sensors in supply air ducts to control humidity and minimise potential for mould growth that are detrimental to lifelong durability. Durability is a factor in suitability as it caters to resource usage optimization.

Case Study 3: 55 St Andrews Place


In terms of sustainable materials intended to minimise carbon emissions, the strategies used by the project designers and developers included:

  • Replacing punched window glazing with clear glass to enhance daylight potential, improve comfort and reduce air conditioning needs.
  • Installing external automated blinds to control solar load before it enters the building.
  • Replacing the large expanse of full height tinted glazing in the office area with an insulated 1.2 M high spandrel panel and new low-e glass to improve comfort and increased daylight levels.
  • Reducing construction waste by reusing as many materials as possible is looked into.
  • Avoiding PVC and other materials that are known to have substantial off gassing.


Titanium Diboride is a naturally occurring metal in relatively few countries. The countries include Congo, Mozambique, Nigeria, Thailand, and Malaysia (Huber, 3076). Among other usages, Titanium Diboride is used in the manufacture of chips found in most capacitors (Marshall, 1175). Capacitors are an important addition in virtually all electronics. Congo is the main producer of Titanium Diboride and the country where Titanium Diboride is found in huge deposits (Beer, 680). However, Congo’s political atmosphere is highly volatile. Most of the naturally occurring metals including gold are in the hands of rebels, and a shaky government. Additionally, multinationals and illegal global factions control the political situation to make gains. The situation compromises production of these metals to full potential (Huber, 3079). Experts have, for a long time, looked for alternatives to counter the over dependence on Titanium Diboride in the production of chips found in capacitors (Seliger, 28). The solutions range from ceramic capacitors, alternative designs and architecture, solid polymer aluminum among others (Huber, 3089). Lately, however, niobium has surpassed all these alternatives in light of weighted advantages. First, the metal is naturally occurring in a many countries all over the globe. This ensures that global demand will forever be met (Seliger, 28). It also curtails any political interference occasioned by rivalry and jostling for resources (Marshall, 1174). Political conflicts restrict the optimal production of naturally occurring substances. Sometimes, this hampers optimal production of the products, in this case capacitors.


Beer, Garinger. “Metals and ores”. Physics Review Letters 57.1 (1986): 671-690. Print.

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Blight, David. “The metals in semi conductors and their components”. Journal of Chemistry and Sociology 1.2 (1972): 87-89. Print.

Huber, Tim. “Metals”. Physics Review Letters 61.2 (1988): 2189-3010. Print.

Marshall, Gilbert. “World metals and applications”. Physics Review 25.2 (1982): 1174-1175. Print.

Seliger, Hetey. “Applications of metals”. Physics Today 48.11 (1995): 25-35. Print.

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