A highly sensitive micelle-mediated extraction methodology for the preconcentration of trace levels of vanadium as a prior step to its determination by flame atomic absorption spectrometry (FAAS) has been developed. Vanadium was complexed with 1-(2-pyridylazo)-2-naphthol (PAN) and hydrogen peroxide in acidic medium (0.2 mol L-1 phosphoric acid) using Triton X-100 as surfactant and quantitatively extracted into a small volume of the surfactant-rich phase after centrifugation. The color reaction of vanadium ions with hydrogen peroxide and PAN in phosphoric acid medium is highly selective. The chemical variables affecting cloud point extraction (CPE) were evaluated and optimized. The R.S.D. for 5 replicate determinations at the 20 mu g L-1 V level was 3.6%. The calibration graph using the preconcentration system for vanadium was linear with a correlation coefficient of 0.99 at levels near the detection limits up to at least 0.6 mu g L-1. The method has good sensitivity and selectivity and was applied to the determination of trace amounts of vanadium in water samples with satisfactory result. The proposed method is a rare application of CPE-atomic spectrometry to vanadium assay, and is superior to most other similar methods, because its useful pH range is in the moderately acidic range achieved with phosphoric acid. At this pH, many potential interferents are not chelated with PAN, and iron(III) as the major interferent is bound in a stable phosphate complex. (c) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.