Vanadium

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Vanadium (play /vəˈndiəm/ və-NAY-dee-əm) is the chemical element with the symbol V and atomic number 23. It is a soft, silvery gray, ductile transition metal. The formation of an oxide layer stabilizes the metal against oxidation. The element is found only in chemically combined form in nature. Andrés Manuel del Río discovered vanadium in 1801 by analyzing a new lead-bearing mineral he called "brown lead," and named the new element erythronium (Greek for "red") since, upon heating, most of its salts turned from their initial color to red. Four years later, however, he was convinced by other scientists that erythronium was identical to chromium. The element was rediscovered in 1831 by Nils Gabriel Sefström, who named it vanadium after the Scandinavian goddess of beauty and fertility, Vanadis (Freya). Both names were attributed to the wide range of colors found in vanadium compounds. Del Rio's lead mineral was later renamed vanadinite for its vanadium content.

The element occurs naturally in about 65 different minerals and in fossil fuel deposits. It is produced in China and Russia from steel smelter slag; other countries produce it either from the flue dust of heavy oil, or as a byproduct of uranium mining. It is mainly used to produce specialty steel alloys such as high speed tool steels. The most important industrial vanadium compound, vanadium pentoxide, is used as a catalyst for the production of sulfuric acid.

Large amounts of vanadium ions are found in a few organisms, possibly as a toxin. The oxide and some other salts of vanadium have moderate toxicity. Particularly in the ocean, vanadium is used by some life forms as an active center of enzymes, such as the vanadium bromoperoxidase of some ocean algae. Vanadium is probably a micronutrient in mammals, including humans, but its precise role in this regard is unknown.

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