History & Properties

Discovery of Vanadium

Vanadium is a metal which was 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 colours of the chemical compounds in which it was first found. It was well named for it has provided material for the brilliant thoughts of the fertile minds of scientists and technologists who, for over 150 years, have developed and continue to develop new materials for the benefit of humanity.

How was vanadium found?

Sefstrom in his painstaking study at the laboratories of the Eckersholm iron works which obtained iron ore from the Taberg iron mountain at Falun in Sweden, separated vanadium from chromium and uranium with which it had been confused. He must have considered the automobile a fiction of the imagination, flying a dream, and space travel a fantasy.

Yet his discovery, which preceded Bessemer’s process for making steel by nearly twenty years and the first production of alloy steel by Mushet by over thirty years, was essential for the development of alloy steels and titanium alloys with their remarkable properties. Without these steels and titanium alloys it would not have been possible for man to design machines which enable him to drive across the earth, fly in the sky and travel into space.

Other pioneers in the isolation and use of vanadium were J. Berzelius, in Sweden, Sir Henry Roscoe and Professor Arnold in the UK. An early user of vanadium was Henry Ford in his Model T who who specially highlighted the use of vanadium.

Vanadium, a chemical element with the symbol V and the atomic number 23, is a soft, silvery grey, ductile metal found only in a chemically combined form in nature. It is used mainly to produce certain alloys. The element occurs naturally in about 65 different minerals and in fossil fuel deposits.

Properties of Vanadium

Environmental Properties

Essential to life for some species.
Levels in humans
Muscle: 0.02ppm
Bone: 0.0035ppm
Blood: <0.0002 mg dm-3Daily intake: 0.04mg


Earth’s crust: 160 ppm
Sea water
Atlantic surface: 1.1 x 10-3 ppm
Atlantic deep: n.a.
Pacific surface: 1.6 x 10-3 ppm
Pacific deep: 1.8 x 10-3 ppm

Atomic Characteristics

Unit cell: b.c.c. lm3m a = 0.302 nm
Co-ordination: 8
Atomic number: 23
Mean atomic weight: 50.9415
Isotopes: 47, 48, 49, 50*, 51*, 52. *Stable
Stable Electron shell configuration: 1s2, 2s2, 2p6, 3s2, 3p6, 4s2, 3d3

Physical Properties

Melting point: 1887ºC
Boiling point: 3377ºC
ΔH (fusion): 17.6 kJ mol-1
ΔH (vap): 458.6 kJ mol-1
Density: 6110 kg m-3 (19ºC)
5550 kg m-3 (liquid @ m.p.)
Thermal Conductivity: 30.7 W m-1K-1 (27ºC)

Coefficients of linear thermal expansion:
8.3 x 10-6 K-1 (23-100ºC)
9.6 x 10-6 K-1 (23-500ºC)
10.4 x 10-6 K-1 (23-900ºC)
10.9 x 10-6 K-1 (23-1100ºC)

Electrical resistivity: 19.1 M µΩ cm (20ºC)
Mass magnetic Susceptibility: 6.28 x 10-8m3kg-1
Molar volume: 8.34 cm-3
Modulus of elasticity: 12.4 x 104 N/mm2