• Vanadium
  • Mines Producing Vanadium

Vanadium is not found naturally in nature, it has to be isolated from other minerals but when this is achieved it is found to be a silver grey coloured metal that is both ductile and hard. It has been described by some as being soft but this is most likely because of it being malleable, ductile and not brittle. In fact vanadium is harder than most other steels and metals and resists corrosion. It is particularly stable against attack from hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid, alkalis and salt water. Its main use is in its ability to improve the hardness of steel. When vanadium has been artificially isolated from other minerals it can be made to form an oxide layer on steel products that is able to stabilise the metal against any further oxidation.

Vanadium First Discovered in 1801
Vanadium was first isolated by Andres Manuel del Rio as early as 1801 but he believed it to be a lead bearing mineral and therefore called it 'brown lead.' He dropped any further pursuit of his discovery four years later after fellow scientists convinced him that it was in fact chromium. It was not until 25 years later, 1830, that another scientist, Nils Gabriel Sefstrom produced chlorides of vanadium proving that a new element was in fact involved. Another scientist, Berzelius, also laid claim in the 1930's to have been the first person to isolate the element. It was not to be until 1869 that Henry Enfield Roscoe was able to demonstrate to the world that he had discovered a way to obtain the pure element of vanadium from its host metals.

Vanadium can be found in approximately 65 fossil fuel and mineral deposits. In both Russia and China it is made from the slag produced when making steel, however, most countries obtain it from flue dust created by heavy oil, it can also be found as a by-product when mining uranium.

The Ford Motor Car Company Used Vanadium to Strengthen its Chassis
The first time vanadium was found to be suitable for large scale usage occurred when the Ford motor car company used it to strengthen the chassis of the model 'T' motor car. This innovation came about following the success of it being used to strengthen the metal used in French racing cars at that time. The use of vanadium allowed car makers to reduce the weight of their vehicles while at the same time increasing their strength. Vanadium today is mainly used to produce steel suitable for high speed tools and to add to aluminium to produce the titanium alloy for use in jet engines and airframes. It is also used as an industrial vanadium compound called vanadium pentoxide for the creating of a catalyst when making sulphuric acid.

When vanadium is used as an alloy to improve steel its known as ferrovanadium. This substance is produced by reducing the amount of iron, iron oxides and vanadium oxide in a furnace. Magnetic iron ore bearing vanadium is one of the main ways of isolating vanadium itself. The vanadium ending up in what's known as pig iron that's been produced from vanadium bearing magnetite during the process. Slag can contain up to 25 percent of vanadium, depending on the richness of the ore used. Around 85 percent of all vanadium produced is used as ferrovandium.

Common Uses of Vanadium
- Vanadium hardened steel products include the following products:
- Bicycle frames
- Gears
- Crankshafts
- Axles
- High speed steel tools
- Surgical instruments
- Dental implants
- Jet engines
- High speed airframes
- Vanadium foil used for cladding titanium to steel
- Inner structure of a fusion reactor

It is believed that vanadium is also most likely used in animal biology, including humans, as a micro-nutrient but to date this is unproven. Experiments carried out on rats and chickens have shown that when they are denied vanadium, in very small amounts, they suffer from impaired reproduction and reduced growth. It has been arguably beneficial as a dietary supplement particularly for body building and increasing insulin sensitivity.

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