Vanadium is a useful natural-occurring element in soil and nature. It possesses unique physical and chemical properties useful across various industries such as battery manufacturing, nuclear medicine, steel alloy production, ceramics, and even as a potential treatment for osteoporosis and certain tumors.
The first person to discover the element was Andres Manuel del Rio in 1801. The Spanish Mineralogist was investigating a substance from a Northern Mexico mine. He called this substance ‘brown lead’ and later erythronium(red) when he noticed its salts had similar properties to some chromium salts and turned red when heated. But of course, as all discoveries go, there was a dispute.
In this case, a French chemist named Collett-Desotils made Manuel del Rio abandon his claim by saying his new find was simply impure chromium. Alas! It wasn’t until thirty years later that Swedish scientist Nils Sefström named the mineral vanadium after successfully isolating it from some iron ores. And, of course, he picked the name of a Scandinavian goddess of beauty because of the substance’s gorgeous multicolored compounds.
Anyway, here at OUSHI Metal, we specialize in producing and supplying various vanadium products while maintaining the best environmental conservation practices. We know you are fascinated by this substance and would like to learn more interesting and important facts about it, so here you go:
What is vanadium?
Vanadium is a scientifically recognized element with the chemical symbol V. It’s a strong, silver-greyish transition metallic element with the atomic number 23. It is largely abundant in nature and the human body in minor amounts.
The exact biological usefulness is still under investigation. However, the element is quite useful in other areas, such as the production of high-speed steels, chemical catalysts, and batteries. Its atomic mass is about 54 amu.
Where in the world is vanadium Mined?
Vanadium is mined from various sources across the world. Indeed, it’s found in diverse places, providing buyers with various grades and prices. Furthermore, the supply chain remains secure since various zones can step up production and supply efforts in case of problems in one or more regions. Top producers of vanadium include:
In the past decades, Russia and South Africa have been the leading producers of vanadium. However, China has caught up and even surpassed these two vanadium-supplying giants as of late. This is due to the increased demand for vanadium and vanadium products in Chinese steel industries and other facilities worldwide.
Data from 2022 surveys show the country produced about 70,000 MT of vanadium. Some of China’s top vanadium mining regions include Chengde, Panzhihua, Hulazao, Gansu, and Hulanan. That said, an assessment of the nation’s vanadium reserves solidly places it in the third position after South Africa and Russia.
In Russia, vanadium is mainly mined in the Chelyabinsk, Kachkanar, Orenburg, and Magadan Kola Peninsula. Last year, the country produced about 20000 MTs of vanadium, making it the second biggest supplier.
South Africa has the largest vanadium reserves in the world. However, it produces just about 17000 MTs from its mines in the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, and Limpopo provinces.
Brazil also has massive vanadium reserves, with production amounts topping just 6,200 MT as of 2022. Mining activities are mainly due to Largo Resources, which is the country’s only supplier of pure vanadium. The country’s Maracas Menchen mine produces the highest-grade vanadium.
Some vanadium also comes from the US and Canada. Canada does some mining from its domestic reserves, while the US mainly gets its vanadium from recycled industrial catalysts such as V2O5.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is also suspected of containing rich vanadium mines. However, there’s no way to officially determine the amount of vanadium from the country due to a lot of conflict in the region.
How is Vanadium mined?
It all starts in the quarries with the excavation of various ores known to contain the element. Vanadium naturally exists in about 65 different ores, including vanadinite. Titanomagnetite ores are the main sources of vanadium.
Vanadium queries are generally underground or open-pit, and mining is often the most efficient way to obtain the substance in pure form. But some producers also recover the element from coal, oil shale, tar sands, spent catalysts, and other sources.
Following mining, experts apply various treatment methods to remove trace elements from the ores. Next, the ores are crushed and heated to about 1,800 Fahrenheit. The process involves specialized equipment and often takes several hours.
The final stage in the production process involves refining to separate pure vanadium from slag scum. Some of the techniques used include electrolysis, chemical precipitation, and distillation. Each technique has pros and cons and is often selected based on the form of vanadium.
Vanadium can also be obtained from various industrial wastes and catalysts containing significant amounts of V205 via high-pressure reduction techniques. In fact, a significant amount of vanadium on the market is obtained from recycled waste. It’s part of environmentally sustainable production practices. Industries employ sulfuric acid, aluminum, and coke to reduce V205 to pure vanadium.
Why is vanadium a transition metal?
A vanadium nucleus contains 23 protons, as is evident from the element’s position on the periodic table. Each nucleus also has 23 electrons revolving around it in separate shells. Therefore, a vanadium atom typically assumes a 22.214.171.124 electron arrangement and can afford to lose 5 electrons from its shells.
Indeed, the element adapts about four oxidation states, including:
- Vanadium pentoxide (V2O5)
- Vanadium dioxide (VO2)
- Vanadium sesquioxide (V2O3)
- Vanadium monoxide (VO)
Is vanadium a stable element?
In most chemical elements’ nuclei, neutrons are accompanied by protons. Isotopes are atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons and protons. Protons are stable; neutrons aren’t. And often, neutrons simply decay when they are not linked to protons. On the other hand, protons do not disintegrate on their own. Therefore, the relative number of protons and neutrons in an atom’s nucleus is important.
Stable isotopes have nuclei with almost the same number of protons and neutrons, whereas the nucleus of unstable isotopes contains too few or excess protons and neutrons. Protons establish the chemical bonds that bind atoms together. There are about 24 known isotopes of vanadium; most are unstable. However, the most common isotope, 51V, is stable because it has about the same number of protons (23) and neutrons (28) in its nucleus.
Is vanadium resistant to corrosion?
Vanadium is a hard and flexible transition metal typically resistant to corrosion and reactions with acids, alkalis, and salt water. The corrosion resistance is due to passivation and low reactivity. This makes it useful in harsh environment applications.
Indeed, it’s used to make springs, gears, and other high-strength components for the automotive, aerospace, gas, and oil industries. Of course, passivation simply refers to when the metal reacts with oxygen, gaining a protective oxide surface that prevents reaction with elements in nature. At the same time, the metal is also inert. It does not react easily with chemicals in nature.
What is the boiling and melting point of vanadium?
Vanadium melts at 3434 F and will boil if you heat it beyond 6116 F. These are pretty high boiling and melting points, making the metal beneficial in various high-temperature applications. For example, it can make steel stronger, more durable, tougher, and suitable for super-high temperatures. It’s also used in nuclear reactors fuel, keeping the fuel from hitting high temperatures and causing a nuclear meltdown.
Other uses of vanadium include
Production of catalysts
Vanadium is also used to produce catalysts known as ‘chemical bread’ used in various applications, including the oil and gas industry and the production of other chemicals.
For example, V2O5 is a versatile catalyst used in the oxidation of sulfur dioxide to sulfur trioxide, polymerization of alkenes, and production of nitric acid. Another popular catalyst is the trichloride of vanadium (VCl3) used by ethylene glycol manufacturers. Of course, we’ve all used ethylene glycol at least once in our lives. It’s found in stamp inks, hydraulic brake fluids, cosmetics, ballpoint pens, paints, and antifreeze.
Vanadium is also useful in redox batteries thanks to its simplicity in changing from one oxide to another. In most vanadium redox batteries, there are half cells containing pairs of vanadium redox. Usually, the cathode and anode are kept apart by an ion exchange layer. When electrons leave the anode, VO2+ particles become VO2+, and in the cathode, the electrons convert V3+ particles into V2+.
Vanadium redox batteries are usually high-capacity and often used for expansive power storage. They often feature half cells linked to pumps and storage tanks, allowing extensive volumes of electrolytes to circulate. Common applications that use these types of batteries include car batteries and energy storage systems in windmills and solar power plants energy storage. To recharge these batteries, one simply needs to swap old electrolyte solutions for fresh ones. These electrolyte solutions are often sold at refueling stations.
Nuclear research and medicine
Unstable isotopes of vanadium, mainly the 49V and 48V, have potential applications in nuclear medicine as tracers in various imaging studies. The radiation emitted by the atoms as they disintegrate can be traced and used to produce clear images of human internal structures.
Nuclear physicists also work with various vanadium isotopes to research nuclear phenomena and as an additive in reactor fuel. Indeed, the substance’s high melting point helps keeps nuclear reactors from melting.
Vanadium is also being explored as a potential treatment for osteoporosis and certain tumors. Some research shows that the substance may help increase bone growth in individuals with osteoporosis and prevent the proliferation of certain cancerous cells.
Glasses and ceramics
Vanadium oxide is also used in glasses and ceramics as a pigment to give them a yellow-orange color. It’s an affordable but super-stable pigment, giving objects a long-lasting shine.
Usually, the oxide is produced by heating vanadium in the air and then crushing it to a fine powder. Additional processing gives it different shades of orange and yellow. Moreover, the pigment is non-toxic and, therefore, suitable for highly sanitary applications, including foods and cosmetics, glasses, and ceramics.
High-Speed Steel and Steel Alloys
Perhaps vanadium’s most popular industrial application is as an alloying element to make steel tougher, stronger, and corrosion-resistant. Usually, introducing vanadium into steel results in Vanadium nitride or vanadium carbide. These also improve the grain structure of the steel, making it ductile and easier to manipulate into different forms.
HSLA is a popular steel alloy. It’s short for High-Strength Steel Alloy. The alloy is often used in buildings, automobiles, bridges, and other applications requiring toughness and strength.
Another example of steel alloy made with vanadium is spring steel. It’s often used to make super storing and ductile springs in automobiles, aviation, and oil and gas fields. There’s also tool steel for making saw blades, pipes, and drill bits, especially for use in harsh environments.
It’s also used to make generators and steam turbines for power generation because of its durability and strength.
Vanadium is one of the most important naturally occurring elements. It’s found in the human body in trace amounts and abundantly in nature.
It’s a transition metal with unique chemical and physical properties useful in various applications, nuclear research and medicine, battery manufacturing, production of catalysts, and super durable steel for automotive, aerospace, and oil and gas industries. China is one of the leading producers of vanadium thanks to its massive demand in the nations and global steel manufacturing facilities.
OUSHI Metal is one of the country’s top producers and suppliers of high-grade vanadium. We have over 30 years of experience in the business and constantly strive to supply our clients with the finest Vanadium grade possible while remaining true to our environmental conservation policies. We are based in Shicheng, one of the country’s primary vanadium mining zones, and we will happily supply you with high-quality vanadium products for your projects. Reach out to one of our experts to learn more about our Vanadium products and production practices.