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What Is Vanadium and Where Do I Use It?

  • Vanadium (element symbol V and periodic number 23) is a hard, silver-colored metallic element with good structural strength and melting point of 1910 °C. It occurs naturally in over 60 different minerals, including aluminum ore, vanadate, carnotite, roscoelite and patronite. Due to its nature as a trace mineral, vanadium is found within other mineral ores and is mined as a by-product. Vanadium is also commercially available as a byproduct of petroleum refining and processing.

  • 80-90% of produced vanadium is used in the production of metal, especially steel, alloys. Steel alloys containing vanadium are used in a variety of purposes such as buildings, bridges, oil and gas pipelines, and ships. It is used in steel due its strength, toughness, heat and wear resistance. Besides significantly strengthening steel alloys, vanadium also decreases corrosion and oxidation processes.

  • Vanadium has a variety of large-scale and high-tech uses, such as space vehicles, nuclear reactors and superconducting magnets. The every-day applications of vanadium include steel tools and crankshafts. 

  • Vanadium is the key material in ‘vanadium redox-flow batteries’ (VRB). VRBs are chemically and structurally different from the current lithium-based batteries. It has ten-times longer life-span than lithium-batteries, can charge and discharge at same time, while being able to release huge amount of electricity instantly.

  • VRBs can power everything from a single home to power grids. In the case of power grids, VRBs can stabilize the energy flow from wind turbines and solar panels. This lack of stability in energy supply is currently a significant issue in renewable energy production.

  • In addition to VRBs, lithium-vanadium-phosphate-based car batteries provide more energy for longer periods and have faster recharging than lithium-cobalt batteries. 


Where is Vanadium Produced?

  • The majority of the vanadium supply in 2019 came from China (61%). China is followed by Russia (14%) and South Africa (8%), with the U.S. producing around 3%.

  • Over 80% of vanadium is produced in China (59%), Russia (17%), South Africa (7%) and Brazil (5%).


How Much Does it Cost?

  • Vanadium is not traded on the open market; instead buyers and sellers negotiate privately.

  • Vanadium is primarily traded in the form of vanadium pentoxide and ferrovanadium (FeV). Vanadium pentoxide is used in some non-metallurgical applications in producing vanadium chemicals. In comparison, ferro-vanadium is the vanadium alloy used in metal alloys.

  • The prices for both types of vanadium are traditionally between $20-30/kg, with current prices around $25/kg.

  • The price of vanadium is volatile due to limited supply. For example, a change in steel production rates in China can impact the global price of vanadium due China’s central role in supply and production.

Specific Issues

  • Even adding only 0.15% of vanadium to steel alloy increases the strength and heat-resistance of the steel. Traditionally ferrovanadium (steel alloys with vanadium) contain 1-6% of vanadium.

  • In the EU, there are attempts in Sweden and Finland to start producing vanadium as a by-product of mining. Currently, the EU is highly dependent on vanadium imports from China and Russia.

  • Vanadium is also used in medicine to treat diabetes, heart diseases and high cholesterol. It is also used in batteries for implantable cardioverter defibrillators.

  • Substituting vanadium is not currently economically or technologically easy, especially in the short term, due the costs of substitution. In the case of high-temperature metals and compounds, such as jet engines, there is no substitute for vanadium.



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