Ever heard of niobium? A tiny quantity of it adds enormous strength and temperature resistance to steel (think aircraft fuselages and engines, bridges and skyscrapers).

Niobium is one of 17 rare earth elements, or rare metals. The others include antimony, beryllium, germanium, tantalum and yttrium. These beautiful names may be unrecognisable to most of us, but rare metals pervade modern products and technologies...

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