Vanadium is readily alloyed with other metals, and it resists corrosion from oxygen, salt water, alkali compounds and many acids because it forms an impermeable coating of vanadium oxide in air. While it resists more thorough oxidation at low temperatures, it readily forms the important compound vanadium oxide above 660 degrees Celsius. This compound has two vanadium atoms bound to five oxygen atoms and is relatively soft and ductile.
Vanadium is most often used in steel alloys, and it is part of many steel axles, crankshafts, gears and other important mechanical components. Alloyed with titanium and aluminum, it is used in many airplane parts, including jet engines and air frames.
Few mining operations target vanadium specifically, and it is mostly produced as a side product of the smelting of other ores. Vanadium is never found in a pure metallic form in nature, only in compounds. It was first discovered in 1803 by Andres Manuel del Rio in Mexico City. It was discovered again, independently, in 1831 by Nils Gabriel Sefstrom in Sweden. He gave it its current name after the Germanic goddess Vanadis. Vanadium was not produced as a pure metal until 1867, and its existence until then was detected by identifying its unique compounds.