Approximately 85% of vanadium produced is used as ferrovanadium or as a steel additive. The considerable increase of strength in steel containing small amounts of vanadium was discovered in the early 20th century. Vanadium forms stable nitrides and carbides, resulting in a significant increase in the strength of steel. From that time on, vanadium steel was used for applications in axles, bicycle frames, crankshafts, gears, and other critical components.
There are two groups of vanadium steel alloys. Vanadium high-carbon steel alloys contain 0.15% to 0.25% vanadium, and high-speed tool steels (HSS) have a vanadium content of 1% to 5%. For high-speed tool steels, a hardness above HRC 60 can be achieved. HSS steel is used in surgical instruments and tools. Powder-metallurgic alloys contain up to 18% percent vanadium. The high content of vanadium carbides in those alloys increases wear resistance significantly.
One application for those alloys is tools and knives. Vanadium stabilizes the beta form of titanium and increases the strength and temperature stability of titanium. Mixed with aluminium in titanium alloys, it is used in jet engines, high-speed airframes and dental implants. The most common alloy for seamless tubing is Titanium 3/2.5 containing 2.5% vanadium, the titanium alloy of choice in the aerospace, defense and bicycle industries. Another common alloy, primarily produced in sheets, is Titanium 6AL-4V, a titanium alloy with 6% aluminium and 4% vanadium.