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What is Vanadium?

Vanadium is a grey, soft, and ductile high-value metal with several unique characteristics that position it strongly in the steel, alloys, and chemical sectors. The metal also acts as a battery material that is 100% reusable.

More than 85% of vanadium is recovered from magnetite and titano-magnetite ores, either as the primary product or more commonly as a co-product with iron processed for steel production. It can also be recovered as a secondary product from fly ash, petroleum residues, alumina slag, and from the recycling of spent catalysts used in some crude oil refining.

Strength Weight Ratio

Historically vanadium demand was controlled by global steel interests. In recent years, the demand for emerging high tech and energy applications has greatly accelerated due to the global mandate to end our 140 year addiction to burning fossil fuels. The future must be sustainable. Critical and battery metals, as well as green technologies are the key to transition the world to zero emissions and create new green and “circular” global economy.

Vanadium
History

History of Vanadium

Vanadium was officially discovered by the Swedish scientist Sefstrom in 1831. He named it after Vanadis the “Swedish Goddess of Beauty and Fertility” because of the attractive brilliant colors of the chemical compounds in which it was first found. It was well named for it has provided many discoveries for scientists and technologists who, for over 150 years, have developed and continue to develop new materials for the benefit of humanity.

The use of vanadium goes as far back as the 3rd Century BC when super strength “Damascus steel” was first manufactured. The first wide-scale use of vanadium in the industry was in 1905 when Henry Ford realized that the Model-T could be stronger and lighter if he used vanadium-enriched steel. The need for stronger, lighter-weight steel emerged with the need for higher safety.

Global Usage of Vanadium

Historically vanadium demand was controlled by global steel interests. In recent years, the demand for emerging high tech and energy applications has greatly accelerated due to global mandate to lower footprint. Critical and battery metals, as well as green technologies are the key to transition the world to zero emissions and in turn a new circular & green economic ecosystem.

Unprecedented Growth in Emerging Markets

Flow Batteries

10%
  • Stores energy in liquid vanadium electrolyte (both the anolyte and catholyte) that never degrades. Hardware can be recycled and the vanadium electrolyte (up to 80% of the VRFB) can be reused indefinitely.
  • Potential to revolutionize entire power grids and many new applications with sustainable energy storage.

Electric Vehicles (EVs)

1%
  • Vanadium-Lithium Batteries enable over 6X range/capacity over convention Lithium-Ion (Swatch Group, Volkswagen, Subaru)
  • Vanadium also reduces carbon, weight while increasing tensile strength and ductility more than any other element in alloys and steel utilized for EVs

“Smart” Buildings

3%
  • Smart glass windows made with vanadium are capable of saving more energy by stopping thermal radiation from escaping and, thus, preventing heat loss during the winter, and by avoiding infrared radiation from the sun from entering the building during warm climates.

Computing, Robotics and Nanotech

1%
  • Vanadium defies Wiedemann-Franz Law. This law states that good conductors of electricity are also good conductors of heat. This unusual ability can be used to dissipate the heat in engines, computers, robotics, energy storage and more

Conventional Applications

Steel

75%
  • About 75% is produced as ferrovanadium, a high strength low alloy additive (or HSLA), used in construction structure and rebar.
  • Increases resistance to corrosion – used for tool steel (e.g. axles and crankshafts), for tubes and pipes manufacturing, and in the automotive industry to make components such as hoods, door panels and piston rods.

Master Alloys

7%
  • Mixed with aluminum, to strengthen and promote thermal stability in titanium alloy; largely utilized in the aviation sector to produce jet engines, airframes and spacecrafts, the high strength to weight ratio provides fuel efficiency.
  • Used in nuclear reactors because of the element’s low neutron absorption abilities and resistance to high temperature stress.

Chemicals & Catalysts

2%
  • Applications in dye manufacturing, in glass and ceramics production and as a catalyst in manufacturing sulfuric acid and can be combined with gallium to form superconductive magnets.

Health

1%
  • Vanadium as a supplement for treating and preventing and managing many health issues from diabetes to brain function
  • Lithium/silver vanadium oxide batteries are critical for pacemakers and other medical devices critical to human life

Vanadium Redox Flow Battery “VRFB” 101

Vanadium Infographic 1

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The Vanadium Redox Flow Battery

The VRFB is a type of rechargeable flow battery where rechargeability is provided by vanadium electrolyte (VE) dissolved in solution. The two tanks of Vanadium, one side containing V2+ and V3+ ions, the other side containing V4+ and V5+ ions, are separated by a thin proton exchange membrane.  VRFBs consists of two tanks of vanadium electrolyte that flow adjacent to each other past a membrane and generate a charge by moving electrons back and forth during charging and discharging. This battery offers unlimited energy capacity simply by using larger electrolyte storage tanks. It can be left completely charged for long periods without losing capacity and maintenance is much simpler than other batteries. Pumps on both sides circulate the electrolyte.

The electron differential between the two cells generates electric power. Most batteries use two chemicals that change valence (or charge or redox state) and cross-contaminate and thus degrade over time. VRFBs utilize multiple valence states of vanadium as a single element to store and release charge. The VRFB has no cross-contamination like most batteries. The electrolyte in the catholyte and the anolyte consists of 100% vanadium ions. The ion-sensitive membrane separating both sides of the electrolyte tank allows only protons to pass. VRFBs are containerized, long duration, non-flammable, compact, reusable over infinite cycles, and last more than 20 years.

What are the advantages of Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries?

  • VRFBs have a lifespan of 20+ years
  • VRFBs offer immediate energy release
  • VRFBs are suitable for grid connection or off-grid settings – ideal for renewable energy
  • VRFBs can discharge 100%, without any damage to the battery
  • VRFBs are non-flammable
  • They ensure power and energy can be scaled independently
  • Vanadium electrolyte can be re-used and does not need to be disposed of
  • The batteries can be cycled more than once per day
  • They use only one element in electrolyte – V2O5
  • VRFB energy storage guarantees uninterrupted power supply

How does a Vanadium Redox Flow battery (VRFB) work?

  • A flow battery is charged and discharged by a reversible reduction-oxidation reaction between the two liquid vanadium electrolytes of the battery
  • Unlike conventional batteries, electrolytes are stored in separated storage tanks, not in the power cell of the battery
  • During operation these electrolytes are pumped through a stack of power cells, in which an electrochemical reaction takes place and electricity is produced
How It Works Video

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