What is Vanadium?
It is a medium-hard, silvery white metal. It rarely exists as a free element in nature but can be found in a combined state in nearly 65 different minerals, such as magnetite, vanadinite, carnotite and patronite, as well as in deposits of coal, petroleum and phosphate rock.
Properties of Vanadium
This lesser known metal boasts properties such as good structural strength, malleability, ductility, a natural resistance to corrosion, and stability against alkalis, acids and salt water, making it extremely valuable in the manufacturing industry. It also exhibits highly colourful and varied oxidation states.
It is also referred to as the plastics of the 21st century, as it creates ultra-high-strength and super-light alloys.
Applications of Vanadium
The most significant use of this material is to create specialist steel alloys. It is alloyed with steel and iron for high-speed tool steel, high-strength low-alloy steel, spring steel, and wear-resistant cast iron. The addition of Vanadium to steels removes occluded oxygen and nitrogen, thereby improving the materials’ strength. Roughly 80 percent of the material produced around the world is alloyed with iron to create a shock- and corrosion-resistant steel additive called Ferrovanadium. Ferrovanadium consists of between 1 to 6 percent Vanadium. Loaded with this additive, Vanadium-steel alloys are used to make tough tools and components such as circular saws, drill bits, car gears, axles, armor plates, springs, cutting tools, piston rods and crankshafts. This is because Vanadium steel keeps its hardness at high temperatures, allowing it to be used for moving parts that produce high levels of heat.
When mixed with Aluminium and Titanium, it produces a strong alloy used for applications such as dental implants and jet engines. These alloys are also used to make nuclear reactors, since they have low-neutron-absorbing properties.
Compounds of Vanadium have several commercial uses. Vanadium pentoxide is used as a mordant (helping permanently fix dyes to fabrics), as a catalyst in chemical reactions and in the manufacturing of ceramics. Vanadium compounds are also used as catalysts in the manufacture of sulfuric acid and polyamides such as nylon, and in the oxidation of several organic compounds such as ethanol to acetaldehyde and sugar to oxalic acid, among others.