An Overview about the Chemical Element Vanadium

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Symbol: V

Atomic Number: 23

Atomic Mass: 50.9415 amu (atomic mass units)

Melting Point: 1890.0 C (2163.15 K, 3434.0 F)

Boiling Point: 3380.0 C (3653.15 K, 6116.0 F)

Number of Protons: 23

Number of Electrons: 23

Number of Neutrons: 28

Classification: Transition Metal

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 5.8 grams per cubic centimeter

Color: Silver/gray

Vanadium was discovered twice. The first discovery was by Andres Manuel Del Rio in Mexico in 1803. This Spanish mineralogist was investigating a mineral ore then known as brown lead which was found in a mine in Hidalgo, Northern Mexico. The newly discovered element yielded a number of colors similar to the element chromium. From this Del Rio named his discovery panchromium meaning "something that can have or take on many colors." Later influenced by the ability of most salts of the element to turn red on heating he changed the name to erythronium. He sent samples of the ore to along with a covering letter detailing his discovery and methods to Institute de France in Paris, France. Unfortunately his letter was lost in a shipwreck. The institute only received the ore samples and a short enclosed note stating that that the element resembled chromium. Without the covering letter the institute was unaware of his true claim and sent back a letter disputing his discovery so he withdrew his claim.

In 1830 Nils Gabriel Sefstrom rediscovered the element while investigating iron ores from a mine in his native Sweden. He named the element vanadium after the Scandinavian goddess Vanadis. That same year Friedrich Wohler started re-examining Del Rio's original ore samples. He substantiated Del Rio's claim but the name of the element remained vanadium. The brown lead ore is now known as vanadinite and is a source of vanadium along with the ore patronite.

Vanadium has two naturally occurring isotopes. Vanadium-51 is stable and makes up 99.75% of the total while the other 0.25% consists of the unstable vanadium-50 which as a very long half life. Twenty five other isotopes are known with half lives ranging from less than 55 nanoseconds to 330 days.

Vanadium has a variety of uses the main one being in the production of ferrovanadium. Ferrovanadium is a shock resistant alloy of iron and vanadium. Along with vanadium alloys of steel ferrovanadium is used to make parts of automobiles such as crankshafts, axles and gears. It is also used in the production of jet engines, springs and cutting tools.

To make ferrovanadium it is not necessary to produce pure vanadium. Impure vanadium pentoxide can be added to crude iron before further processing.

Vanadium metal does have a few industrial uses.

* Its corrosion resisting properties means it is suitable for the production of pipes and containers in the chemical industry.

* It does not easily absorb neutrons and so is used in the nuclear industry.

* Vanadium foil is used to bond steel to titanium.

Vanadium pentoxide is the most useful of vanadium's compounds.

* It acts as a mordant. This is a compound which fixes dyes to cloth.

* Mixed with gallium forms superconductive magnets.

* It acts as a catalyst in the chemical industry.

* Vanadium pentoxide is used in the manufacture of ceramics.

Vanadium has been found to have a biological function in some species.

* In sea squirts, ascidians, vanadium is considered essential for life. Their ability to concentrate the element within their bodies means that sea squirts contain a million time more vanadium than sea water.

* In rats and chicks vanadium is considered necessary to life. Vanadium deficiencies in these creatures can cause growth retardation and reproduction difficulties.

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