Vanadium Facts

Vanadium Chemical & Physical Properties

This is a photo of bars of pure crystalline vanadium.
This is a photo of bars of pure crystalline vanadium. Vanadium is a silverish gray transition metal. Alchemist-hp, Creative Commons License

Vanadium (atomic number 23 with symbol V) is one of the transition metals. You've probably never encountered it in pure form, but it is found in some types of steel. Here are essential element facts about vanadium and its atomic data.

Vanadium Basic Facts

Atomic Number: 23

Symbol: V

Atomic Weight: 50.9415

Discovery: Depending who you ask: del Río 1801 or Nils Gabriel Sefstrom 1830 (Sweden)

Electron Configuration: [Ar] 4s2 3d3

Word Origin: Vanadis, a Scandinavian goddess. Named after the goddess because of vanadium's beautiful multicolored compounds.

Isotopes: There are 20 known isotopes of vanadium ranging from V-23 to V-43. Vanadium has only one stable isotope: V-51. V-50 is nearly stable with a half-life of 1.4 x 1017 years. Natural vanadium is a mostly a mixture of the two isotopes, vanadium-50 (0.24%) and vanadium-51 (99.76%).

Properties: Vanadium has a melting point of 1890+/-10°C, boiling point of 3380°C, specific gravity of 6.11 (18.7°C), with a valence of 2, 3, 4, or 5. Pure vanadium is a soft, ductile bright white metal. Vanadium has good corrosion resistance to alkalis, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and saltwater, but it oxidizes readily at temperatures exceeding 660°C. The metal has good structural strength and a low fission neutron cross section. Vanadium and all of its compounds are toxic and should be handled with care.

Uses: Vanadium is used in nuclear applications, for producing rust-resistant spring and high-speed tool steels, and as a carbide stabilizer in making steels. Approximately 80% of the vanadium that is produced is used as a steel additive or ferrovanadium. Vanadium foil is used as a bonding agent for cladding steel with titanium. Vanadium pentoxide is used as a catalyst, as a mordant for dyeing and printing fabrics, in the manufacture of aniline black, and in the ceramics industry. Vanadium-gallium tape is used to produce superconducting magnets.

Sources: Vanadium occurs in approximately 65 minerals, including vanadinite, carnotite, patronite, and roscoelite. It is also found in certain iron ores and phosphate rock and in some crude oils as organic complexes. Vanadium is found in small percentages in meteorites. High purity ductile vanadium may be obtained by reducing vanadium trichloride with magnesium or a magnesium-sodium mixture. Vanadium metal also may be produced by calcium reduction of V2O5 in a pressure vessel.

Vanadium Physical Data

Element Classification: Transition Metal

Density (g/cc): 6.11

Electronegativity: 1.63

Electron Affinity: 50.6 kJ/mol

Melting Point (K): 2160

Boiling Point (K): 3650

Appearance: soft, ductile, silvery-white metal

Atomic Radius (pm): 134

Atomic Volume (cc/mol): 8.35

Covalent Radius (pm): 122

Ionic Radius: 59 (+5e) 74 (+3e)

Specific Heat (@20°C J/g mol): 0.485

Fusion Heat (kJ/mol): 17.5

Evaporation Heat (kJ/mol): 460

Debye Temperature (K): 390.00

Pauling Negativity Number: 1.63

First Ionizing Energy (kJ/mol): 650.1

Oxidation States: 5, 4, 3, 2, 0

Lattice Structure: Body-Centered Cubic

Lattice Constant (Å): 3.020

CAS Registry: 7440-62-2

Vanadium Trivia:

  • Vanadium was initially discovered in 1801 by the Spanish-Mexican mineralogist Andres Manuel del Río. He extracted the new element from a sample of lead ore and found salts formed a multitude of colors. His original name for this colorful element was panchromium, meaning all colors.
  • del Rio renamed his element 'erythronium' (Greek for 'red') because the crystals of vanadium would turn red upon heating.
  • The French chemist Hippolyte Victor Collet-Descotils claimed del Río's element was actually chromium. del Río retracted his discovery claim.
  • Swedish chemist Nils Sefström rediscovered the element in 1831 and named the element vanadium after the Scandinavian goddess of beauty Vanadis.
  • Vanadium compounds are all toxic. Toxicity tends to increase with oxidation state.
  • The first commercial use of vanadium steel was the chassis of the Ford Model T.
  • Vanadium is paramagnetic.
  • The abundance of vanadium in the Earth's crust is 50 parts per million.
  • The abundance of vanadium in seawater is 0.18 parts per billion.
  • Vanadium(V) oxide (V2O5) is used as a catalyst in the Contact Process to manufacture sulfuric acid.
  • Vanadium is found in the proteins known as vanabins. Some sea species of sea cucumbers and sea squirts have yellow blood because of the vanabins in their blood.

References: Los Alamos National Laboratory (2001), Crescent Chemical Company (2001), Lange's Handbook of Chemistry (1952), CRC Handbook of Chemistry & Physics (18th Ed.), International Atomic Energy Agency ENSDF database (Oct 2010

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