What’s Fun About…?: Vanadium through Zirconium


  • Vanadium oxide is used to fix dyes to fabrics, as a catalyst, and for the manufacturing of ceramics.
  • It is corrosion resistant.
  • Steel alloyed with vanadium is tough, shock resistant, and vibration resistant.
  • It is used in making superconductive magnets.
  • Alloys including vanadium are used for jet engines.
  • Emeralds are green because they contain vanadium.


  • NASA’s xenon ion drive engine propels spacecraft on deep space mission by ejecting xenon ions at over 88,000 miles per hour (146,000 kilometers per hour).
  • It is typically inert, but both of its oxides are highly explosive.
  • Camera flash is produced by electricity being passed through xenon.
  • Medical imaging and anesthetics use it.
  • Ultra-bright car headlights use xenon.


  • Some steels contain ytterbium to improve some mechanical properties.
  • It is a safer and cleaner industrial catalyst.
  • It is a dopant in fiber optic cables and lasers.
  • Ytterbium-160 is used in portable x-ray machines which don’t need electricity.


  • Yttrium iron garnets are used in microwave filters. They are also highly efficient in transmitting and transducing acoustic energy.
  • Its oxide, along with yttrium vanadate and europium, are used to make red phosphors in television tubes.
  • It reduces the grain size of chromium, molybdenum, zirconium, and titanium to increase their strength.


  • It galvanizes other metals to prevent oxidation.
  • An oxide film forms on it which protects it from corrosion.
  • Zinc sulfide is used in fluorescent lights and x-ray screens.
  • Toothpastes and mouthwashes contain zinc.
  • Combined with copper, it forms brass.
  • It is the fourth most widely used metal.
  • Paints, cosmetics, and inks use it.
  • All living things need it.


  • It is highly corrosion resistant.
  • Nuclear power plants use it.
  • Zirconium-niobium alloys are used to make superconductor magnets.
  • Lotions for treating poison ivy use zirconium.
  • Its oxide is used for producing strong ceramics.
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