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.
- Close to 75% of vanadium is produced as ferrovanadium, for high strength low alloy (HSLA) steels used in construction and rebar.
- Vanadium increases resistance to corrosion in tool steels (i.e. axles and crankshafts), for tubes and pipes manufacturing, and in the automotive industry to make components such as hoods, door panels and piston rods.
- Mixed with aluminum, to strengthen and promote thermal stability in titanium alloy; largely utilized in the aviation sector to produce jet engines, airframes and spacecraft, 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
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.
- Vanadium is utilized in health supplements for treating, preventing and managing many health issues.
- Lithium/silver/vanadium oxide batteries are critical for pacemakers and other medical devices critical to human life.
- Smart glass windows with vanadium dioxide are capable of saving more energy by stopping thermal radiation from escaping and thus, prevent heat loss during cold climates and reflect infrared radiation from the sun in hotter climates.
Computing, Robotics and Nanotech
- 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 heat in engines, computers, robotics, energy storage and more.
Vanadium pricing summary
Vanadium is not currently traded on any commodity exchanges such as the LME. Prices are settled in private negotiations between sellers and buyers. Historically, there have been periods of vanadium price volatility due to fluctuations in the supply/demand balance. Prices have ranged from as low as US$4/lb V2O5 to more than US$30/lb V2O5.
Monthly average prices for V2O5 have increased materially since January 2016. This is largely due to low vanadium prices affecting industry shutdowns between 2014 – 2016 that resulted in a significant decrease in global production. Since this time, demand for vanadium has grown steadily, and pricing is relatively stable. Global inventory continues to decrease with most vanadium resource prospects remaining uneconomic or unviable with current pyrometallurgical methods. High technical and capital risks are associated with building a conventional roasting or smelting facility in most global jurisdictions. In addition, the environmental impacts are significant with a carbon footprint of ~ 1.6-2 MT per MT of V2O5 product. This may likely increase carbon penalties and regulatory constraints in the future. The few primary producers in operation (soda ash roasting) and co-product smelters globally must deal with the continuing challenges associated with high environmental costs and limited recovery. Potential solutions for increasing sustainability of vanadium recovery in the future include hydrogen technologies and hydrometallurgical process technologies such as the patented VanadiumCorp Electrochem Process Technology solution wholly owned by VanadiumCorp.
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