Vanadium is a chemical element with symbol V and atomic number 23. It is a hard, silvery grey, ductile and malleable transition metal. The element is found only in chemically combined form in nature, but once isolated artificially, the formation of an oxide layer stabilizes the free metal somewhat against further oxidation.
Vanadium occurs naturally in about 65 different minerals and in fossil fuel deposits. It is produced in China and Russia from steel smelter slag; other countries produce it either from the flue dust of heavy oil, or as a byproduct of uranium mining. It is mainly used to produce specialty steel alloys such as high-speed tool steels. The most important industrial vanadium compound, vanadium pentoxide, is used as a catalyst for the production of sulfuric acid.
Large amounts of vanadium ions are found in a few organisms, possibly as a toxin. The oxide and some other salts of vanadium have moderate toxicity. Particularly in the ocean, vanadium is used by some life forms as an active center of enzymes, such as the vanadium bromoperoxidase of some ocean algae. Vanadium is probably a micronutrient in mammals, including humans, but its precise role in this regard is unknown.