Facts About Vanadium

Credit: Greg Robson/Creative Commons, Andrei Marincas | Shutterstock
Atomic Number: 23
Atomic Symbol: V
Atomic Weight: 50.9415
Melting Point: 3,470 F (1,910 C)
Boiling Point: 6,165 F (3,407 C)

Word origin: The word vanadium comes from the Scandinavian goddess Vanadis.

Discovery: Vanadium was first discovered by Andres Manuel del Rio in 1801. He was told by a French chemist, however, that his new element was only impure chromium. Del Rio accepted this statement, though it was incorrect.

Vanadium was rediscovered in 1830 by Nils Gabriel Sefstrom. He named it in honor of the Scandinavian goddess Vanadis because of the element’s beautifully multicolored compounds.

Properties of vanadium

Vanadium is a transition metal in Group 5 on the periodic table of the elements. In its pure form, vanadium is a bright white metal. It is soft, ductile and structurally strong. It has a low fission neutron cross-section and good corrosion resistance to alkalis, sulfuric and hydrochloric acid, and salt water, but it oxidizes quickly at temperatures above 1,220 F (660 C). [See Periodic Table of the Elements]

Natural vanadium is a combination of two isotopes, 50V (0.24 percent) and 51V (99.76 percent).50V is slightly radioactive, having a half-life of > 3.9 x 1017 years. There are nine other recognized unstable isotopes of vanadium.

Vanadium and its compounds are toxic and so should be handled with care. The maximum allowed concentration of vanadium oxide (V2O5) dust in air is about 0.05 per eight-hour shift in a 40-hour work week.

Vanadinite is a mineral that is an important source of the element vanadium.
Credit: Anneka | Shutterstock

Sources of vanadium

Vanadium is found in about 65 different minerals, including these important sources: carnotite, roscoelite, vanadinite and patronite. It is also found in phosphate rock, certain iron ores, and some crude oils in the form of organic complexes. In space, it is present in a small percentage of meteorites.

 It is suspected that commercial production of petroleum ash could be an important source of vanadium in the future, because high-purity ductile vanadium can be obtained by reduction of vanadium trichloride with magnesium or a magnesium-sodium mixture.

Today, much of the vanadium metal produced is made by calcium reduction ofvanadium oxide (V2O5) in a pressure vessel.

Uses of vanadium

Vanadium is an important component in modern steel production. It is used in production of rust-resistant and high-speed tool steels. It is an important carbide stabilizer. About 80 percent of the vanadium now produced is used as ferrovanadium or as a steel additive. Vanadium foil is used as a bonding agent when cladding titanium to steel.

Vanadium pentoxide is used in ceramics and as a catalyst.

Vanadium is also used to produce a superconductive magnet with a field of 175,000 gauss.

(Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

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