The Most Beautiful Metal

Richard (Rick) Mills

Page 2 of 3


Vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) is used as a mordant, a material which permanently fixes dyes to fabrics. V2O5 is also used as a catalyst in certain chemical reactions and in the manufacture of ceramics. It can also be mixed with gallium to form superconductive magnets.


Vanadium oxide is used as a pigment for ceramics and glass, as a catalyst and in producing superconducting magnets.


Vanadium is mined mostly (85% of global production) from vanadium-bearing titaniferous magnetite found in ultramafic gabbro bodies in South Africa, north-western China, and eastern Russia.


Purification processes ultimately produce vanadium pentoxide (V2O5).


Unlike other commodities, there is no market quote for vanadium.  Vanadium is traded by contract, directly between the producers and consumers - global market prices are set by whatever steel industry customers are willing to pay.




Vanadium or V flow batteries


Every sunny afternoon there’s a remarkable amount of the sun’s energy, in the form of solar power, fed into the electricity grid. The problem is that all this new electricity is coming at the wrong time of day. Between noon and 4pm is a trough in power demand. It’s during peak hours of demand in the evening when all this excess energy can be utilized.


An emerging market opportunity is rapidly developing for vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) to be used as the main ingredient, the electrolyte, in the vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) aka the Vanadium Flow Battery (VFB) or V flow battery. Other vanadium redox battery technologies, such as lithium-vanadium phosphate batteries are also being advanced.


Vanadium Flow Battery’s can store large amounts of energy almost indefinitely, which makes them perfect for wind/solar farms, industrial and utility scale applications, to supply remote areas, or to provide backup power.


Vanadium is going to become a crucial part of the renewable energy revolution.


“Electrical distribution grids must operate within one simple principle, that energy consumption must be met by energy production instantaneously. Therein lies the problem; solar energy is intermittent, meaning it has variable energy output and is extremely uncertain due to natural conditions. The output can vary on daily, hourly, weekly, and possibly even monthly bases depending on where depending on where the solar panels are set up. This is a serious limitation when integrating solar plants to major grids. Energy storage would be able to solve this problem of energy reliability and security, and it could also be utilized to control to demand and reduce the  load on base load plants that traditionally use fossil fuels. The objective of integrating enery storage technologies is to generate an electricity reserve, which would stabilize the energy market, reduce the need on reserve fossil fuel plants, smooth out short term power quality applications, reduce the requirements of the spinning reserve, provided black start capacity, reduce the vulnerability of renewable, provide greater access to electricity, and finally make the energy produced more affordable for the masses.” Nathaniel Ahlers, Review of Grid-Level Energy Storage Technologies

Energy Storage Roles on the Electric Grid


According to the U.S. Energy Storage Monitor, energy storage demand, especially at the business and utility scales, will increase ten times in just the next five years.


The Energy Storage Association states that corporate investments in energy storage reached $660 million in the third quarter of 2016.


Fact - A lack of energy storage is the main factor limiting the spread of renewable energy.


Fact - When we can create, and easily access as required huge stores of energy, we will be free from much of our dependence on fossil fuels.


New battery technology, efficient, easily accessible stored energy, is essential to our renewable energy future.


How VFB’s work


Batteries store energy and generate electricity by a reaction between two different materials, usually zinc and manganese.


In VFB batteries, these materials are liquid and have different electric charges. Both liquids (V2+/V3+ and VO2+/VO2+) are pumped into a tank. A thin membrane separates the two liquids but the liquids are able to react and an electric current is generated.


Vanadium is used because it can convert back and forth from its various different states which carry different positive charges. The risk of cross contamination is eliminated as only one material is used. They are also safer, as the two liquids don’t mix causing a sudden release of energy.



The liquids have an indefinite life, so the replacement costs are low and there are no waste disposal problems. Also, battery life is extended potentially infinitely. By using larger electrolyte storage tanks VFB’s can offer almost unlimited energy capacity and they can be left completely discharged for long periods with no ill effects.


“V-flow batteries are fully containerized, nonflammable, compact, reusable over semi-infinite cycles, discharge 100% of the stored energy and do not degrade for more than 20 years. Unlike solid batteries, like lithium-ion or lead-acid, that begin degrading after a couple of years, V-flow batteries are fully reusable over semi-infinite cycles and do not degrade, giving them a very, very long life.” James Conca, The Energy Storage Breakthrough We've Needed






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