Facts about Tungsten

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.

Picture source: VectorStock.com

 

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.

Picture source: tungstenmind.com

 

Chemical properties:

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.

picture source: glammadamlive.com

 

History:

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.

Picture source: Tungsten Corp

 

Applications:

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

 

Final words:

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.

Azimi.

 

Sources:

Wikipedia.org

10 thoughts on “Facts about Tungsten

  1. Oh my gosh, I have to admit when I first started the article I didn’t think I would enjoy it and then I kept reading and it was so interesting. I didn’t know that much about Tungsten and it is an amazing element. That image of it in the form when it found is so neat because the transformation is so cool. I think you for teaching me something different today and for presenting it in a way that was exciting!

  2. Thank you so much for this highly informative article, Sulaiman! I had no idea that Tungsten was the hardest element on the planet, and nearly the hardest metal on the planet (behind the likes of diamonds, of course. Haha). It’s amazing to think about how versatile Tungsten is-it is used in everything from drills to electronics to sports. I never would have thought that its’ use was so widespread. Thank you so much for sharing this information with us! God bless you!

    1. Much appreciated for your valuable opinion.
      Tungsten is indeed one of the rarest and quite essential metals on earth, and to be in possession of something so rare is something out of this world.
      The first time I heard about tungsten was when I was reading the discovery of light bulb by Thomas Edison. While every other metal failed to endure the heat from electricity, it was tungsten that withstood and thus light bulb was invented.
      I would love to have one of them tungsten rings on my finger one of these days 🙂

  3. Very cool. I was looking at tungsten rings a while back, wondering what it was all about, and here’s an article explaining it. It does make for a great looking ring. Something different, that no everyone is wearing.

    I didn’t realize it was used for so many different applications. It’s always a good day when you can say that you’ve learned something new. Thanks.

    1. Appreciate the comment Steve. I am always up for learning something new as well, and it makes me happy that someone appreciates that.
      Tungsten rings look bad-ass! my favorites are polished black tungsten carbide bands.

  4. I never knew this type of metal was called Tungsten! I once gave a ring to my other half in the metal. Now I learnt from it from your lovely blog post.

    Amazing stuff and website.

    Wishing you all the best in your success journey.
    Habib

  5. After reading your post I feel Tungsten is one of the most valuable metals that can be processed by man. Its functionality can be present in many valuable applications that can include electrical uses, manufacturing uses, construction and chemicals.
    I have also heard that it is metal that protects from radiation? Is this true?

    1. Yes that is right. Tungsten is one of the few elements that protect against gamma rays and thus radiation. It is also used in nuclear fusion reactors for coating, I guess for the same reason.
      Thanks for your comment and question 🙂

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