We continue to review some of the most important materials in heat treatment and metallurgy.
Vanadium (Chemical symbol: V)
Vanadium was discovered in 1801 by Andrés Manuel del Río, a Professor of Mineralogy in Mexico City. Del Río extracted the element from a sample of Mexican lead chloro-vanadate ore, later named vanadinite (Fig. 1). In 1831, the Swedish chemist Nils Gabriel Sefström rediscovered the element by separating it from a sample of cast iron. He named the element vanadium after the 8th-century Scandinavian goddess Vanadís, known for her beauty and fertility, due to the stunningly beautifully colorful compounds vanadium produces. Pure vanadium was produced by Henry Roscoe at Manchester in 1869. Roscoe, an English chemist, showed that previous samples of the metal were actually vanadium nitride (VN).
The first widespread use of vanadium was in the chassis of the Ford Model T (Fig. 2) automobile, which utilized vanadium steel alloy. A 1908 advertisement for the Model T read, “Vanadium steel, the strongest, toughest and most enduring steel ever manufactured, is used throughout the entire car.” Vanadium alloyed steel was previously used in French race cars, which came to the attention of Ford, who recognized its reduced weight and high strength. Since then, vanadium has become an important alloying element used in steel and titanium.
In steel, vanadium promotes fine grain size to enhance ductility, increases hardenability and improves wear resistance by increasing the amount of carbides in the steel. About 80% of the vanadium produced is used as an alloying agent for steel. Vanadium-steel alloys are used in bicycle frames, axles, tools, piston rods and crankshafts, and other critical components, as well as for armor plating. Vanadium alloyed with aluminum and titanium is used in jet engines and aircraft frames. Vanadium alloys are also used in nuclear reactors because vanadium demonstrates low neutron adsorption, and it does not deform in creeping under high temperatures. Vanadium gallium is used in superconducting magnets, and vanadium pentoxide is used in ceramics and as a catalyst for the production of sulfuric acid.
Here are a few important facts about vanadium.
- Atomic number: 23
- Melting point: 1910°C, 3470°F, 2183 K
- Density @ 20°C: 6.1 g/cm3