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10 November 2011

Could vanadium be about to revolutionise the world of battery technology?

Vanadium elements

Vanadium, a small metal used in steel manufacturing, could be about to revolutionise the world of battery technology.

According to analysts we could be on the cusp of an investment boom in vanadium much like we experienced last year in lifted rare earths.

“The potential to make vanadium into a multi-billion dollar metal resides in the battery business and in particular in the energy storage business,” Chris Berry, founder of New York research firm House Mountain Partners, told Reuters.

Vanadium has not only the potential to replace coal in the use of renewable energy resources such as solar and wind, but could in the near future be used to fuel electric cars. In fact a six minute charge could in theory support an EV for hundreds of miles without the need for a recharge. If these technologies take off then, analysts predict that the demand for vanadium could increase by more than 35 percent over the next two years.

Vanadium and its attributes however, have been known for decades being used in the making of alloy wheels and in the aerospace industry, but breakthroughs in the metals' energy storing capacity have only gathered pace in recent years. Although vanadium batteries have been around since the 1980’s, their expense and size has meant that they have not been made readily available for commercial use. With vanadium flow batteries charging in a flash and having a life-span that can last several decades, scientists have sped up the research process in how to get around these obstacles. Success could result in a major scramble by corporations to secure a steady supply of the precious metal.

“You're seeing dollars flow into this technology, so there is some good promise in it going forward. In the long term, the demand will rise,” comments Byron Capital Markets analyst, Jonathan Lee.

 

Image 01: W. Oelen | Wikimedia Commons

Image 02: Cliff 1066 | Flickr

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