The element vanadium has a strange background. It was discovered, then discredited, then discovered again, and then again rediscovered! Confused? Well, that is indeed the chronology of the discovery of vanadium. Read ahead to know more about vanadium and its uses.
The Discovery of Vanadium
First, let us get to know the element vanadium and then progress towards its uses. Vanadium was first discovered in 1801 by Andrés Manuel del Rio, who was studying minerals. This discovery was discredited by his European colleagues who concluded that it was the chemical element chromium instead. Thirty years later, Nils Sefstrom from Sweden discovered it again and named it vanadium after the Scandinavian goddess of beauty and it got its place in the periodic table. However, both these scientists were unable to find vanadium in its pure form. This was finally done by Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe from England.
Some Facts about Vanadium
- Vanadium is a transition metal.
- Its chemical symbol is 'V' and it is placed in the 5th group of the periodic table.
- Its atomic number is 23 and it has an atomic weight of 50.9415.
- The shell structure is 2, 8, 11, 2 with the number of protons and electrons at 23 and neutrons at 28.
- It is a ductile metal which has a silvery white, shiny appearance and its compounds form different colors.
- It does not react chemically, except with hot acids.
- Since vanadium has a moderate thermal neutron capture cross-section, and also due to its strong internal structure, it is used in nuclear reactors during nuclear fusion experiments.
- One of the most important industrial uses of vanadium is in the making of steel alloys. Vanadium steel uses the strength, toughness and anti-corrosive properties that vanadium adds to it. This steel (ferrovanadium) is used to make special tools and equipment. The equipment is used in cars for gears, crank shafts, pipes and tubes in the chemical industry, etc.
- Titanium alloys used in rockets also use vanadium for its tensile strength.
- It is also mixed with gallium to manufacture super-conductive magnets used as high field inserts.
- It is highly rust resistant. This is the reason why it is used in making different springs, tools and heavy industry equipment.
- Its most widely used compound is vanadium pentoxide. The ceramic industry, glass industry, etc. benefit from vanadium pentoxide.
- Dyeing and synthetic fabrics use vanadium. It acts as a mordant, the agent to fix the color on fabric.
- It acts a catalyst in several chemical reactions in industries, for producing sulfuric acid, synthetic rubber, etc.
- It is also used in aluminum alloys to increase their resistance to heat.
- It is sometimes used as a material for X-rays to be discharged at.
- Some studies have shown that doses of vanadyl sulfate help in lowering the blood sugar level of people suffering from type 2 diabetes. However, this is highly debated and not all medical practitioners agree with it.
- One of the uses of vanadium in homeopathy that vanadium metallicum acts as a carrier of oxygen and also as a catalyst. It uses the oxygen that it carries to mix with toxins, thus weakening them and ultimately destroying them and protecting the body from diseases. It also helps to increase the hemoglobin level in the blood.
- It also acts as an effective homeopathy remedy for ailments like anorexia nervosa, gastro-intestinal disorders, liver and artery degeneration, and also in cases of cough, dry nose and other related problems.
- In the early stages of tuberculosis, it acts as tonic for easy digestion.
Vanadium has become an almost indispensable part of modern industry. Guess we're lucky it refused to remain undiscovered after all.