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What is a Niobium Wet-Mate Connector?

Posted by Robert Czyz on Mon, October 26, 2020


Put simply, a niobium wet-mate connector is the safest and most reliable way to make electrical connections underwater. Of course, an invention this extraordinary deserves a more detailed explanation.

Traditional wet-mate connectors are meant to be mated in a dry environment and submerged in water without damaging the electrical components. From oil-filled chambers and O-rings to glass-filled epoxy and mechanical mating, wet-mate connector designs have always focused on keeping water out of the juncture between two cables. In doing so, they reduce the risk of corrosion, electric shock and electrical failure caused by water damage. However, even if the physical properties of a wet-mate connector hold up, water will eventually work its way in. And when it does, technicians face numerous challenges involving cost, resolution time and safety.

Due to the complexity of a traditional wet-mate connector’s design, repairs and replacements don’t come cheap. They also don’t come easy, which adds to the cost and effort required to maintain them. That’s where niobium comes into play.

The Power of Niobium (Nb):

Niobium is a soft gray-silver metal, similar in appearance to fresh-cut steel. The natural element is found in mineral ores and extracted through a refining process. While niobium is considered a rare element, electrical engineers increasingly utilize the metal to solve their wet-mate connector woes because of its unique reaction to moisture. In addition to its low- and high-temperature resistance (especially when combined with stainless steel), niobium instantly grows its own protective barrier, which:

  1. Acts as an insulator to prevent electricity from flowing through the water
  2. Prevents corrosion
  3. Prevents electronics from shorting out

What is a niobium wet-mate connector?

Since niobium is ductile and malleable, the metal can be drawn into wires through a die or worked into virtually any form, such as electrical contacts. By harnessing the powerful attributes of niobium, wet-mate connectors can support nearly infinite mating cycles and allow technicians to mate and de-mate electrical connections while completely submerged in fresh or saltwater. And because niobium creates its own protection from water, there’s no need for O-rings, oils or complex mechanical components that can make the connector more vulnerable to water ingress. As a result, niobium wet-mate connectors are more reliable and more economical to repair or replace. Today, you’ll find niobium wet-mate connectors in numerous “extreme” applications, including:

  • The exploration of exoplanet atmospheres
  • Land and sea nuclear reactors
  • Pacemakers
  • MRI scanners
  • Particle accelerators
  • Corrective lenses

NiobiCONN, iCONN’s proprietary niobium wet-mate connector, is more reliable and safer than current connector technology. Learn more about how our patented niobium technology can serve your next project.