Few minerals are enjoying the popularity surge of Vanadinite right now. Named for Vanadis, the Norse goddess of beauty, this eye-catching mineral is being used in supplements and also as the prime material in next generation batteries that offer a number of benefits over Lithium Ion batteries.
Vanadinite, which usually has a red hexagonal crystal appearance, is formed by the oxidation of galena and other lead ore deposits. It was originally found in Mexico but major deposits have also been located in Europe, Africa, North America as well as in other areas of South America.
While Vanadinite is also a minor source of lead, it’s the role that it plays in creating Vanadium that is generating the most interest in the mineral.
To see what all the fuss is about, I recently sat down with Nathan Cammerman, cofounder of Multicom Resources and a geologist by initial training. Nathan told me that the majority of vanadium reserves are held in titaniferous Magnetite and sedimentary deposits in Australia, China, Russia and South Africa.
Vanadium was originally discovered back in 1801 and only recently have researchers, government, industry officials and the general population started to realize that this metal can be used in batteries where it provides tremendous stability and endurance.
Nathan explained that Vanadium has shown the ability to be recharged indefinitely without losing performance, which means that it could potentially last for decades.Vanadium redox batteries are also scalable; they offer nearly unlimited capacity by simply scaling up to larger storage tanks.
Vanadium has other benefits as well, Nathan was quick to explain to me. For instance, vanadium flow batteries do not have to be recycled as entire units: While the hardware might deteriorate after some years, the electrolyte remains intact.That means the electrolyte can be pumped out and replenished after 20+ years of use, then cleaned up and reused. This allows for a full circular economy on vanadium used in vanadium flow batteries. In other words, every time you replace a vanadium battery you don’t need to mine new Vanadium since it has recyclable electrolytes.
So when Vanadium is mined, where does it come from? It is typically found in titaniferous Magnetite deposits, uraniferous sandstone and siltstone, and bauxites and phosphorites. However, it does not occur in nature as pure vanadium metal, but rather as a trace element in approximately 65 minerals and in fossil fuel deposits.
When explaining how vanadium mining has changed over the years, Nathan pointed to the Saint Elmo Vanadium Project in North Queensland. He said at this Multicom Resources’ location, vanadium is hosted in a very shallow sedimentary type deposit. That means there are significantly lower carbon emissions per pound of vanadium pentoxide produced at the site compared to hard rock mining peers in other locations.
He also added that Multicom has committed to a stringent rehabilitation regime with the Queensland government. As part of this commitment, Multicom, after the initial commissioning phase, intends to work towards carbon neutrality for the project. Multicom Resources is the Australian mining and manufacturing partner of StorEn Technologies, a vanadium flow battery manufacturer based in the US.
In addition to being used in next-gen batteries, Vanadium (V2O5), which Nathan explained is a medium-hard, ductile metal, is also being used in the production of steel alloys, where a relatively small amount of vanadium considerably increases the strength of steel.
Vanadium, when alloyed with steel, aluminum or titanium can form stronger, lightweight engineering material. This mineral offers a variety of benefits, which explains its growing popularity. But Nathan went back to its use in batteries when asked to look forward at what the future may hold for Vanadium and Vanadinite. He explained that Vanadium is considered to be a transition metal due to its ability to adopt multiple oxidation states. In fact, Vanadium exhibits four common oxidation states +5, +4, +3, and +2 each of which can be distinguished by its color. It is the ease with which the different oxidation states of vanadium can be interconverted that makes vanadium flow batteries so effective and durable.
To learn more about how the vanadium mineral is used to create vanadium redox flow batteries, click here.