Vanadium: the essentials

Pure vanadium is a greyish silvery metal, and is soft and ductile. It has good corrosion resistance to alkalis, sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and salt waters. The metal oxidizes readily above 660°C to form V2O5. Industrially, most vanadium produced is used as an additive to improve steels.

vanadium foil sheet
Vanadium foil.

Vanadium: historical information

Vanadium was discovered by Andres Manuel del Rio and Nils Sefström in 1801 at Mexico and Sweden. Origin of name: named after "Vanadis", the goddess of beauty in Scandinavian mythology.

The discovery of vanadium happened "twice". The discovery of vanadium was claimed first by Andres Manuel del Rio (a Spanish mineralogist) at Mexico City in 1803. He prepared a number of salts from a material contained in "brown lead" (now called vanadite, from a mine near Hidalgo in Northern Mexico). He found the colours reminiscent of those shown by chromium, so he called the element panchromium ("something which can take or have any colour"). He later renamed the element erythronium ("red") after noting that most of these salts turned red upon heating. It seems he withdrew his claim after a Frenchman, Collett-Desotils, disputed his claim, and it was only 30 years later that it was shown that del Rio's work was, in fact, correct.

Iin 1831, Nils Gabriel Sefström (a Swedish chemist) was working with some iron ores and was able to isolate a new oxide. This lead to the element being named in honour of the Northern-Germanic tribes' goddess Vanadis (Vanadis, a by-name of Freya referring to beauty and fertility) because of its beautiful multicoloured compounds. In the same year, Friedrich Wöhler came in to possession of del Rio's "brown lead" and confirmed del Rio's discovery of vanadium, although the name vanadium still stands rather than del Rio's suggestion of erythronium.

Metallic vanadium was not made until 1867 when Henry Enfield Roscoe reduced vandium chloride (VCl3) with hydrogen gas to give vanadium metal and HCl.

Vanadium around us Read more »

Vanadium is essential to sea squirts (ascidians). The concentration of vanadium in sea squirts is a million times higher than in sea water as a consequence of their ability to concentrate vanadium.

Vanadium is a necessary part of the diet of rats and chicks, but only is very small amounts. Deficiencies cause reduced growth and impair reproduction.

Vanadium is not found as the free metal in nature. It is however found in many minerals, of which perhaps the most important are carnotite [K(UO2)(VO4)1.5H2O], roscoelite [a mica: 2K2O.2Al2O3.(Mg, Fe)O.3V2O5.10SiO2.4H2O], vanadinite [3Pb3(VO4)2.PbCl2], mottramite [Pb, Ca, Cu)3(VO4)2], and patronite (VS4). It is also present in some crude oils. Vanadium has been identified in the spectra of the sun and other stars.

Abundances for vanadium in a number of different environments. More abundance data »
Location ppb by weight ppb by atoms Links
Universe 1000 20 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the universe on a miniature periodic table spark table
Crustal rocks 190000 75000 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the earth's crust on a miniature periodic table spark table
Human 30 ppb by weight 4 atoms relative to C = 1000000 Chemical elements abundance by weight in humans on a miniature periodic table spark table

Physical properties Read more »

Heat properties Read more »

Crystal structure Read more »

The solid state structure of vanadium is: bcc (body-centred cubic).

Vanadium: orbital properties Read more »

Vanadium atoms have 23 electrons and the shell structure is The ground state electronic configuration of neutral Vanadium is [Ar].3d3.4s2 and the term symbol of Vanadium is 4F3/2.


Isolation: vanadium is available commercially and production of a sample in the laboratory is not normally required. Commercially, routes leading to matallic vanadium as main product are not usually required as enough is produced as byproduct in other processes.

In industry, heating of vanadium ore or residues from other processes with salt, NaCl, or sodium carbonate, Na2CO3, at about 850°C gives sodium vanadate, NaVO3. This is dissolved in water and acidified to give a red solid which in turn is melted to form a crude form of vanadium pentoxide, "V2O5". Reduction of vanadium pentoxide with calcium, Ca, gives pure vanadium. An alternative suitable for small scales is the reduction of vanadium pentachloride, VCl5, with hydrogen, H2, or magnesium, Mg. Many other methodsare also in use.

Industrially, most vanadium is used as an additive to improve steels. Rather than proceed via pure vanadium metal it is often sufficient to react the crude of vanadium pentoxide, "V2O5", with crude iron. This produces ferrovanadium suitable for further work.

Vanadium isotopes Read more »

Vanadium has two isotopes and one of them, V-50, has a very low natural abundance (0.25%). V-50 is occasionally used for research purposes. V-51 is used in diabetes and metabolism studies.

Table. Stables isotopes of vanadium.
Isotope Mass
(atom %)
spin (I)
moment (μ/μN)
50V 49.9471609 (17) 0.250 (4) 6 3.34745
51V 50.9439617 (17) 99.750 (4) 7/2 5.1514

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