Vanadium’s ability to add strength and weldability to steel when the two are alloyed together, alongside its corrosive resistant properties makes it the perfect companion to modern-day transport.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at how the element is becoming more important in the aerospace, automotive, shipping and rail industries.
Thanks to its high strength, low density and ability to sustain high temperatures without corrosion, vanadium is used throughout the aerospace sector, for materials used for aero-engine gas turbines and airframes.
As you can imagine, high strength and the retention of this strength at increasing temperatures is crucial for things like gas turbines used in aircraft.
For example, the bearings in aero-engine gas turbines are often made from steel, but also contain 1% vanadium to ensure its stable enough to withstand 550°C. Other elements, such as tungsten (at 18% in this case) and chromium (4%) are also used to strengthen the steel.
On top of this, vanadium is also being used in the development of new titanium alloys, which have the potential to reduce the weight of aircraft and therefore increase fuel efficiency.
As an example, 8% vanadium alloys boast high strength while remaining extremely flexible, so titanium allows can now replace traditional, heavier steel springs.
The car and vehicle manufacturing industry benefits from using vanadium in a similar way. Materials used in vehicles must also be reliable, strong, easy to manufacturer and also be light enough to reduce fuel consumption.
An interesting example of vanadium in action is for motorsport cars with high-powered engines. Lightweight, high-strength titanium-vanadium alloy connecting rods are used to create super-strong, yet light, suspension and valve springs.
Vanadium is not only being used in our cars but also on the bridges that connect our towns and cities. Again, its toughness, strength and weldability make vanadium the ideal addition to HSLA steel that is used to make steel bridges.
Our railways experience a lot of wear and fatigue, which eventually results in disruption to passengers and a lot of time spent repairing and maintaining.
By using special vanadium steels, we can increase the life of the rails and reduce the amount of time wasted due to disruption and repairs.
As we see more high-performance and high-speed railway lines laid in countries across the world, vanadium will begin playing a huge role in the manufacturing of rail lines.
While cars, planes and trains are getting faster, so too are our ships. Vanadium is being used in ship plates as a practical alternative to other micro alloys, delivering high strength and excellent weld toughness.
At GSAe, our core technology supports this future by recovering vanadium from ‘secondary sources’, such as refinery residues (heavy ends, vacuum residue catalysts etc), ash created in oil-fired power stations and desalination plants, and TiO2 waste.
This is a more environmentally-beneficial method to traditional means as it recovers the vanadium (and other metals) from a source that has already been extracted and would otherwise be wasted in landfill. This does not replace other methods of production in terms of scale, but adds to and improves raw material usage.