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Duranium was a naturally occuring, extremely strong metallic, substance. Due to its abundance in numerous planetary cores, duranium was used for hull construction for starships and facilities by numerous races across the Milky Way galaxy. (DS9 reference: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual)
In combat situations, duranium shadows can be used to fool enemy sensors into believing that there is a large stockpile of weapons located at the position that they are scanning. In 2369, Chief Miles O'Brien and the crew of Deep Space 9 were able to fool Gul Jasad and his attack force that the station was more heavily fortified than they believed. (DS9 novelization: Emissary)