Vanadium: Chemical Properties

Vanadium is a chemical element with the symbol V and atomic number 23. It is a hard, silvery-grey, malleable transition metal. The elemental metal is rarely found in nature, but once isolated artificially, the formation of an oxide layer somewhat stabilizes the free metal against further oxidation. It is a metal of Group 5 (Vb) of the periodic table. It is alloyed with steel and iron for high-speed tool steel, high-strength low-alloy steel, and wear-resistant cast iron.

The element was rediscovered in 1830 by the Swedish chemist Nils Gabriel Sefström, who named it after Vanadis, the Scandinavian goddess of beauty and youth, a name suggested by the beautiful colours of vanadium’s compounds in solution. The English chemist Henry Enfield Roscoe first isolated the metal in 1867 by hydrogen reduction of vanadium dichloride, VCl2, and the American chemists John Wesley Marden and Malcolm N. Rich obtained it 99.7% pure in 1925 by reduction of vanadium pentoxide, V2O5, with calcium metal.

Vanadium Element Properties

It is the 22nd most abundant element in Earth’s crust. Some commercial sources are the minerals carnotite, vanadinite, and roscoelite. Other commercial sources are vanadium-bearing magnetite and flue dust from smokestacks and boilers of ships burning certain Venezuelan and Mexican oils. China, South Africa, and Russia were the leading producers of vanadium in the early 21st century.

Characteristics of Vanadium

It is a medium-hard, ductile, steel-blue metal. It is electrically conductive and thermally insulating. Some sources describe vanadium as “soft”, perhaps because it is ductile, malleable, and not brittle. Vanadium is harder than most metals and steels. It has good resistance to corrosion and it is stable against alkalis and sulfuric and hydrochloric acids. It is oxidized in air at about 933 K, although an oxide passivation layer forms even at room temperature.