What is Vanadium?
Vanadium is a medium-hard, silvery white metal. It rarely exist 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 of 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. Vanadium also exhibits highly colourful and varied oxidation states.
It is also referred to as the plastics of the 21st century as vanadium creates ultra high-strength and super-light alloys.
Applications of Vanadium
The most significant use of Vanadium 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 vanadium produced around the world is alloyed with iron to create a shock-and corrosion-resistant steel additive called Ferrovanadium. This Ferrovanadium consists of between 1 to 6 percent vanadium. Loaded with this additive, Vanadium-steel alloys are used to make tough tools 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.
Other alloys such those with gallium can be used to create superconductive magnets. When mixed with aluminium and titanium, vanadium produces a strong alloy used for applications such as dental implants and jet engines. Vanadium 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 fixes dyes to fabrics), as a catalyst in chemical reactions and in the manufacturing of ceramics. Vanadium compounds are also used as catalysts in the manufacturing of sulfuric acid, in the manufacture of polyamides such as nylon; and in the oxidation of several organic compounds such as ethanol to acetaldehyde and sugar to oxalic acid, among others.