What is Vanadium? How is it used now, and what is the future of Vanadium?
We need large amounts of finite resources, such as Vanadium, to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reap the benefits from renewable sources like the sun and wind. Vanadium, the fifth most common transition metal in the Earth’s crust, is found in Australia and has some of the most significant deposits.
This versatile metal is getting more attention due to its potential role in the green energy storage revolution. However, many people need to become more familiar with it. We explain what it is, how it is being used, and why it is gaining more interest in the future.
What is Vanadium?
Vanadium is primarily used in the steel industry but can also be used for many other purposes, such as bright windows and cardioverter defibrillators. Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries, also known as VRFBs, are the most popular use of Vanadium. The demand for Renewable Energy is growing at an unprecedented pace. Utility-scale energy storage is now more critical than ever. Vanadium has a battery material that can be 100% reused.
Vanadium is a familiar element on the block. The piece was discovered in 1801 by Andres Manuel del Rio. Its name comes from “Vanadis,” an ancient Norse term for Freyja, and it is still being used today. This silvery grey metal, the sixth strongest on the planet, has all the power and mysterious appeal of its namesake and is highly versatile. Vanadium can be added to steel to increase its strength and resistance to vibrations, shocks, and corrosion. Vanadium, when combined with titanium, creates the highest strength-to-weight ratio among all engineered materials on Earth.
Today, more than 63 million tonnes of Vanadium can be found hidden in plain sight all over the globe. It is not found in nature in its metallic form, but it can be seen as a trace element in over 60 minerals and various rock types. Vanadium pentoxide is reduced with calcium in a pressure vessel to make vanadium metal.
The next big thing in Vanadium Redox Flow Battery Technology
VRFBs are a unique technology in the world of batteries. They take advantage of Vanadium’s natural properties, which can be used in four different oxidation states. Instead of using the metal in its solid form, liquid vanadium electrolyte solutions are used to make half-cells. They are divided by a proton exchange membrane. Vanadium electrolytes can be reused and recycled and last for 25+ years.
VRFBs are unique because they can store large quantities of energy in a ready-to-use state for long periods and quickly release it as needed. How can we ensure that communities have electricity even when the sun isn’t shining, and the wind isn’t blowing? VRFBs are the solution. They can produce energy regardless of weather conditions, temperature fluctuations, lengths of days, or unstable grids. The VRFBs can be charged and discharged simultaneously, are non-flammable, and do not require cross-contamination. Vanadium can be recycled infinitely, which is its beauty of it. Unlike lithium, it is possible to lease Vanadium for long periods and recycle it.
In the coming years, low-cost energy storage will be critical. VRFBs is one of the most cost-effective ways to store electricity in a controlled manner. Vanadium isn’t cheap, but you can count on batteries made from Vanadium for many years due to their recyclability.
Australia has a long-standing connection to Vanadium. The VRFB was created in 1983 by Maria Skyllass–Kazacos in Sydney. This led to a surge in exploration, and more than 20 VRFB companies worldwide are developing the technology commercially.
Australia has four million tonnes of vanadium reserves. China produces and consumes more than 60% of the world’s Vanadium. However, Australia, which has the third-largest vanadium reserves in the world, is a significant player in the market. North Queensland has enough Vanadium resources to supply the world’s annual demand for 120 years. Increasing numbers of exploration projects across Australia have been approved, including in Queensland (Julia Creek), Western Australia(Gabanintha), and the Northern Territory (“Mount Peake”)
Vecco Group, a company specializing in batteries, announced in April that it would construct and operate Australia’s first vanadium battery manufacturing facility. The Debella Vanadium project plans to produce more than 130MWh per year of vanadium electrolyte. The battery plant in South-East Queensland will make Australia a world leader in green energy manufacturing. The first utility-scale vanadium flow batteries will be constructed in regional South Australia. The $20.3 million project will support the South Australian electricity grid, which already heavily depends on intermittent renewable energy sources like the sun and wind.
The first Australian state to pledge to 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 was Victoria in April 2021. As Australia joins these efforts, Vanadium, already a critical mineral and a part of the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will increasingly stabilize our energy grid.
The letter’ V’ stands for versatile.
Vanadium can be used in steel and titanium as an alloy with more than 80%. It is the most commonly used alloy in steel and titanium for strengthening steel needed to build bridges and buildings. Vanadium-steel alloys can also manufacture tools, armor plates, and automotive components like crankshafts, piston rods, and axles.
Vanadium is not a brute-force machine with no brains. It has many alternative uses. Vanadium can be used as a pigment in ceramics or as a catalyst for producing dyes and fabrics. It also acts as a sulphuric acid agent. The unique properties of Vanadium have been used to create intelligent windows that trap heat outside during the summer and keep it inside during winter. Research is underway to include Vanadium in the batteries for electric cars.
Vanadium is a significant medical agent. It has significant effects on cell growth, signaling, and redox processes as well as enzyme function. Vanadium can treat various ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. It has also been used in the components of implantable cardioverter-defibrillators. Although Vanadium is essential for humans, it can be used in tiny amounts: We only need 0.01 milligrams daily.
What’s next for Vanadium
Low-carbon technologies will need a significant percentage of world mineral production by 2050. Vanadium is one of the five essential minerals for renewable energy technologies. Demand is expected to rise by 173% between 2017 show and 2050. Vanadium is still a steel-driven market, which will not change in 2021. However, vanadium battery technology has the potential to take off. Its high efficiency, superior energy density, and long lifespan are key factors in allowing us to reap the benefits of clean energy.