What is Vanadium?

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Vanadium, atom, metal

A chemical element that is represented by the symbol V and with atomic number 23 is vanadium. It is a silver grayish in color. It is a soft metal. Vanadium occurs naturally  65 different minerals and in fossil deposits. It is extracted mostly from the dust of heavy oil or as a byproduct of uranium mining. It is produced in China and Russia from steel smelter slag (product obtained from smelting of an ore o separate the metal fraction). Vanadium ions are found in some organisms as a toxin. Vanadium is a micronutrient (nutrients required by living beings throughout their life in small quantities.) essential for humans and other mammals.



Who Discovered Vanadium ?

In 1801, a Mexican mineralogist Andres Manuel Del Rio discovered a material that he called “brown lead”. He later renamed this compound as erythronium which means red and it was named so beacause the element turned red on heating. In another side of the globe, a Swedish chemist named Nils Gabriel Sefstrom isolated a new material from the iron ores that he named vanadium in honor of the goddess of beauty and fertility. In his studies, he found that vanadium produced many beautifully colored chemical compounds. In 1831, a geologist named George William Featherstonhaugh suggested that vanadium should be renamed as "rionium" after Andres Manuel Del Rio. However, his proposal was rejected. Ultimately, the name vanadium was chosen. Isolation of vanadium metal from other ores was found to be difficult. In 1927, pure vanadium was extracted by reacting vanadium pentoxide with calcium. Vanadium was first used in large scale in the steel industry. It was used to make the chassis of the ford car model T.



What Are the Sources of Vanadium?

The estimation of the total resources of vanadium account to 63 million tons. Some rocy deposits have vanadium as a trace element in them and vanadium is also found as a by-product of mining operations. Vanadium is also found in magnetite i.e. iron oxide deposits. Iron oxides also very rich in the element vanadium. It is also found in bauxite (aluminum ore), high amounts of phosphate bearing minerals, and sandstones (with high uranium content). Vanadium is also found in carbon-rich deposits such as coal, oil shale, crude oil, and tar sands. This trace element is found in the human body. Vanadium is an essential element to ascidians, also known as sea squirts. The concentration of vanadium is one million times higher than the concentration of vanadium in seawater. Vanadium is also present in different kinds of fungi and algae. Vanadium deficiencies result in reduced growth and impaired reproduction. 



What are the Applications of Vanadium?

Pure vanadium is soft. However, when alloyed or combined with other metals like iron, it becomes  strong and hard. This unique property of vanadium is used in making alloys (mostly steel alloys). These alloys are made into tools and construction materials. Vanadium alloyed with iron produces carbon steel, low-alloy high-strenght steel, tool steel and full alloy steel. These hard and strong alloys are used in armor plating. These plating are used in military vehicles and other survivability products. It is also used to make car parts like piston rods and crank shafts. Vanadium steel has the strength to support massive weight. Hence, it is used as a frame or skeleton for the high-rise buildings. Vanadium pentoxide is important in the production of glass and ceramics.  It is also used as a chemical catalyst. Vanadium is also used to dye fabrics.



What are the health benefits of Vanadium?

Some studies on humans  suggests that vanadium may lower blood sugar levels and improve sensitivity to insulin in people with type 2 diabetes. However, the dosages used in these studies were far above the tolerable upper intake level. Hence, the scientists are not sure if taking vanadium at those levels is safe. Vanadium is also advertised as a sports supplement to boost the performance but there isn't sufficient evidence to prove that it works. In fact, one clinical trial examining vanadium use in athletes found no benefit at all and is controversial. Vanaduim if required should be taken only when prescribed by the doctor. Usually 30-60mg of vanadyl sulfate is the daily dosage as a supplement.



What are the side effects of Vanadium?

Vanadium may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs like Clopidogrel (Plavix), Warfarin (Coumadin), Heparin, Aspirin and also when taken with drugs for diabetes because vanadium may lower blood sugar levels. People taking medications to lower blood sugar could also be at risk of developing low blood sugar or hypoglycemia .

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