Inconel is a family of austenitic nickel-chromium-based superalloys. The name is a trademark of Special Metals Corporation. Inconel alloys are oxidation and corrosion resistant materials well suited for service in extreme environments subjected to pressure and heat. When heated, Inconel forms a thick, stable, passivating oxide layer protecting the surface from further attack. Inconel retains strength over a wide temperature range, attractive for high temperature applications where aluminum and steel would succumb to creep as a result of thermally-induced crystal vacancies (see Arrhenius equation). Inconel's high temperature strength is developed by solid solution strengthening or precipitation strengthening, depending on the alloy. In age hardening or precipitation strengthening varieties, small amounts of niobium combine with nickel to form the intermetallic compound Ni3Nb or gamma prime (γ'). Gamma prime forms small cubic crystals that inhibit slip and creep effectively at elevated temperatures. The formation of gamma prime crystals increases over time, especially after three hours of a heat exposure of 850 C, and continues to grow after 72 hours of exposure.