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According to the article I linked in my first post (which, it should be noted, is obviously based on a Vishay press release), niobium is plentiful while tantalum is dear. Also, niobium has been recognized as a potential substitute for tantalum in the manufacture of capacitors for a long time, but the challenge has been to get niobium to be stable and workable in the manufacturing process. Vishay claims to have solved the manufacturing problem, and it is this process that they've probably patented.

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