Have you ever noticed a huge ‘W’ almost in the middle of the periodic table? Well that is Tungsten, or more specifically known as Wolfram in chemical terms, and thus being given the letter “W” as its symbol. In today’s article we are going to learn about some interesting and fun Facts about Tungsten.
Tungsten is Swedish for “Heavy Stone”, indicating that it is in fact the heaviest element on the planet and one of the hardest metals. As a matter of fact, some tungsten alloys’ hardness come close to diamond, the hardest material on earth, even though pure tungsten is soft and brittle.
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Here is little chart on basic physical and chemical attributes of this metal:
Appearance: Silver-white/grey and shiny
Chemical name : Wolfram (W)
Atomic number: 74
Element Category: Transition metal
Melting point: 3422 Celsius
Boiling point: 5930 Celsius
Hardness: 7.5 on Mohs scale
Occurrence: Wolframite (Iron-Manganese tungstate) and Scheelite (Calcium tungstate) minerals
Abundance: 1.25% in earth’s crust
Found in: China, South Korea, Bolivia, Great Britain, Russia, Vietnam and Portugal
That being said, now let’s dive a little deeper in tungsten’s physical and chemical properties, history, uses and the part it plays in jewelry.
Physical properties of Tungsten:
Whenever I hear the word tungsten my mind immediately goes to the invention of light bulb by Thomas Edison, imagining a tough, heavy and enduring metal, and those words describe this element perfectly in physical terms. Among all the elements, tungsten has the highest melting and boiling point, 3422 Celsius and 5930 Celsius respectively, making it the most difficult metal to go from solid to liquid and from there to gas state, and that was how it was able to withstand the heat of electricity while other metals melted.
Tungsten is found in shiny silver-grey color in wolframite and scheelite ores in nature, but can be brittle and hard to work with. However, if made pure it increases its strength and becomes ductile enough. It is para magnetic, meaning that it is weakly attracted by a magnet. Even though tungsten is skin-friendly, exposure to its dust by breathing, swallowing and eye-contact in a workplace can lead to health problems.
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Tungsten is located in group 6 and period 6 at D-block of the periodic table, bearing the atomic number of 74 and atomic weight of 183.84. It occurs in body-centered cubic crystal structure, which is said to be the most common natural crystal structure of a metal. It has respectively 2-8-18-32-12-2 electrons per shell, resulting in charges of +6 (most often), +4 and -2.
It has four naturally occurring isotopes which are W-182, W-183, W-184 and W-186, and one long-live radioisotope of W-180 that is observed to decay in the element Hafnium by alpha emissions.
This metal can get oxidized and form tungstate oxide, but resists reactions with acids and alkalis, except for chlorine which leads to tungsten hexachloride. The most popular compound of this metal is W2C and WC, more commonly known as tungsten carbide. It is produced by heating powdered tungsten with carbon and has the most application in jewelry industry.
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In 1781 Carl Wilhelm Scheele discovered that a total new kind of acid can be obtained from the scheelite ore. Later in 1783, Jose and Fausto Elhuyar, Spanish scientist brothers, found an acid made from wolframite that was similar to the previous type of acid. From there, the brothers succeeded in isolating tungsten by reduction of this new acid with charcoal, and were credited with the discovery of the metal tungsten, although they named it wolfram at the time.
Tungsten’s strengthening of alloys, density, hardness and resistance to heat properties quickly rose to attention in the twentieth century, especially during the world wars, and recognized it as an important raw material for the arms’ industry. One example of this is application of tungsten carbide cutting tools for machining steel. The Germans used it to coat their tanks for protection against anti-tank missiles. However, in today’s era, the metal is widely used in aircraft, motor sport, sports, jewelry and electronics industry.
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Tungsten Carbide makes more than half of the uses of this heavy metal since it is used in the production of all kinds of hard materials such as abrasives, circular saws, knives, drills and a lot of tools in metalworking, woodworking, mining, oil and construction industries.
Tungsten is often used in obtaining heavy metal alloys as well. Alloys containing this metal is widely applied in industries such as aerospace, automotive, arms’ and radiation shielding. These alloys include high speed steel, hastelloy and stellite.
The jewelry industry sure makes use of this awesome metal as well, mostly in the form of tungsten carbide rings and wedding bands. The bands made out of tungsten carbide carries super smooth surface, hypoallergenic, durability and corrosive-resistant properties, and are just something unique to wear.
Picture source: Tungsten-Jewellery.com
Tungsten carbide jewelry is slightly more affordable than other precious metals and with correct polishing, it will give you the same feeling of wearing gold or platinum. Another fun fact about this metal is that gold and tungsten have identical densities, and thus sometimes tungsten is used to replace gold bars with gold-plated bars made from it.
Taking advantage of its high melting point, the electronics industry uses elemental tungsten in many high-temperature applications, such as the traditional light bulb, heating elements, rocket engine nozzles and welding.
Its conductive and inertness make it a suitable element for electrodes, electron microscopes and its electronic structure for x-ray and gamma imaging. Tungsten is known to be applied in nano-electronics and nano-wires as well.
Tungsten is also used in plasma-facing inner walls of most nuclear fusion reactors because of its heat and erosion resistant features.
Picture source: United Wolfram
This amazing metal, whether pure or alloyed with other elements, have great uses in almost all the huge industries of the world. Being present only 1.25% in earth’s crust makes it one of the rarest metals, and since we like to own and write about all rare things on this website, it wouldn’t hurt to have an item made of tungsten in our collection.
I hope you have enjoyed these Facts about Tungsten. Wishing you all the best wherever you are.