Sodium niobate is a naturally occurring white crystal. It is odorless and soluble in water, but insoluble in alcohol. Sodium niobate powder includes sodium niobate particles in the shape of a cuboid. Sodium niobate is a lead-free ceramic polymer material that exhibits piezoelectric property. In general, the piezoelectric properties of sodium niobate crystals can be demonstrated only after the temporary application of a strong electric field. The method of producing sodium niobate powder includes the holding of alkali dispersion liquid containing niobium and sodium component at 0.1 MPa pressure and temperature of 500°C to 700°C.
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Sodium niobate with lithium exhibits dielectric and pyroelectric properties with large thermal hysteresis. Sodium niobate is extensively used in gold mines, dyeing processes, chemical laboratories, oil field chemicals, and drilling fluids.
Sodium niobate acts as a reactant or reagent for the preparation of niobium sodium strontium oxides, tin niobate, and triple layered Aurivillius phase photo catalysts. Alkaline niobates, such as sodium niobate with potassium, are considered lead-free substitutes of some of the most important ferroelectrics and piezoelectric such as lead zirconium titanium oxide. High curie temperatures and high electromechanical coupling coefficients are important properties of sodium niobate.
Increasing awareness about environment and health threats of lead as well as environmental legislation around the world has targeted at decreasing the use of hazardous substances in electrical appliances and products has reinvigorated the race to develop lead-free alternatives to lead zirconate titanate (PZT), which presently dominates the market for piezoelectric materials. Emphasis has been placed on one of the most likely piezoelectric materials, potassium sodium niobate (KNN), as a lead-free replacement for PZT. Sodium potassium niobate has been speculated to have better environmental credentials and is considered “greener” replacement to PZT.
The texturization of potassium sodium niobate ceramics in the presence of copper oxide and magnesium oxides is the current market trend for use of sodium niobate as a replacement for lead in piezoelectric devices. Lead-free ferroelectric properties of potassium sodium niobate and aqueous based electrophoretic deposition were successfully demonstrated for eco-friendly aqueous solution of potassium sodium niobate. This coating was successfully used on platinum substrates with improved electromechanical performance.
In terms of end-use, the industrial and manufacturing sector is a key market for sodium niobate. It is followed by the automobile, medical instruments, and information & telecommunication instruments sectors. By region, the market is divided into Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa. In terms of product type, niobates are classified into sodium niobate, potassium sodium niobate, lithium sodium niobate, and sodium tungstenate. In terms of application, the market comprises the sensing and actuation in civil engineering, hydrogen-bonded piezoelectric ceramic, cement-based piezoelectric composites, ultrasonic transducers, frequency filters, and electro optic modulators segments.
China is the leading country in the manufacture of niobates. However, most research-based usage is prevalent in North America and Europe, followed by Asia Pacific.
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Key manufacturers of sodium niobate are Premier Solutions Pte Ltd., Fox Chemicals, Atomax Chemicals, Sagechem, Chemicalpoint Industries Ltd., Rainbow Photonics, Cristal Laser., and Chengdu Huarui Industrial Co. Ltd.