U.S. Vanadium continues critical operation
To produce defense, civilian products during COVID-19 crisis Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – April 8, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 5:46am
U.S. Vanadium Holding Company LLC, an Arkansas-based producer of the world's highest-purity vanadium pentoxide, intends to maintain manufacturing operations at its flagship Hot Springs, Arkansas production facility.
Vanadium is among the 35 minerals and metals the U.S. Geological Survey deemed critical to the United States and is considered essential to the U.S. Defense Industrial Base.
Due to these factors, U.S. Vanadium has decided it is important to keep its Hot Springs facility in operation during the COVID-19 crisis.
"U.S. Vanadium's top priority is the health and safety of our employees and their families, particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is why we are taking all necessary precautions to help our teammates protect themselves and their families," said U.S. Vanadium Holding Company CEO Jody Orme. "At the same time, we feel a deep commitment to continue serving as productive members of the U.S. Defense Industrial Base and contributing to the national security of the United States. Vanadium serves as a key role in a wide variety of defense and essential civilian applications, and our goal is to maintain our production capacity as we navigate the challenges of COVID-19."
Vanadium greatly enhances the strength and durability of steel and other alloys, which is currently the primary use of this metal.
"The high-strength, low-alloy (HSLA) steels containing vanadium are widely used for the construction of auto parts, buildings, bridges, cranes, pipelines, rail cars, ships, and truck bodies, including armor plating for military vehicles," the USGS penned in a 2018 report on critical minerals and metals.
Vanadium-titanium alloys have the best strength-to-weight ratio of any engineered material yet discovered, which makes them irreplaceable in the aerospace industry, according to the USGS.
According to the USGS, this accounted for about 94% of the use of this metal during 2019.
While alloys currently drive the market for vanadium, emerging battery technologies will likely add to the demand for this critical metal.
One such technology, is vanadium redox-flow batteries (VRBs). These batteries, which use vanadium in solution as both the anode and cathode, could be the answer for storing large amounts of electricity that could be fed into power-grids when the need arises.
"Because of their large-scale storage capacity, development of VRBs could prompt increases in the use of wind, solar, and other renewable, intermittent power sources," USGS wrote.
Taking advantage of vanadium's ability to exist in solution in four different oxidation states, the vanadium redox battery uses vanadium in two of these states as electroactive elements, instead of separate elements for the cathode and anode.
The amount of energy a VRB can store is only limited by the size of the storage tank built to hold the vanadium solutions, which are separated by a proton-exchange membrane.
Vanadium is also used as a catalyst in making acids such as maleic anhydride and sulfuric acid.
U.S. Vanadium's Hot Springs facility can produce vanadium pentoxide at the very high purity levels required by demanding applications such as maleic anhydride catalyst, bismuth vanadate pigments and vanadium redox flow batteries.