Tungsten: One Of The Heaviest Metals & A Hard Act To Follow

November 19, 2012

Global demand for the industrial metal is growing robustly, but keep an eye on China.

 

It was back on Dec. 16, 2008, that we at HardAssetsInvestor published our first short piece on tungsten: Tungsten: Heavy Metal (Including Cello). Much has happened in the world of tungsten since then, so a brief update now seems appropriate.

The fundamentals for tungsten remain the same. Tungsten is important because it is heavy. In fact, tungsten is one of our heaviest metals.

Metal

Density (g/cm3)

Iridium

22.65

Osmium

22.61

Platinum

21.09

Rhenium

21.02

Neptunium

20.45

Plutonium

19.82

Gold

19.30

Tungsten

19.25

Approximate density at room temperature.

 

And it is hard. As carbide compounds (W2C and WC), tungsten carbides are some of the hardest available.

Furthermore, in addition to its exceptional properties (high thermal and electrical conductivity, very high thermal creep resistance and very high moduli of compression and elasticity), the following three superlatives can be added:

  • After carbon, tungsten has the highest melting point of any element: 3,422°C or 6,192°F (its boiling point, 5,555°C or 10,031°F, is about as hot as the sun's surface)
  • Tungsten has the lowest vapor pressure of all metals
  • Tungsten has the lowest coefficient of expansion of all metals

 

End-Uses

Over the past four years, the major end-uses of the metal remain unchanged:

Cemented carbides – or hard metals, which are nearly as hard as diamonds and used in a wide range of applications from carpentry tools to hot rolls for rolling mills in the steel industry, dies, punches and cutting tools for stone, cast iron, non-ferrous alloys and steel

Steels/Alloys – particularly high-speed steels, for tool bits and drill bits

Mill Products – such as metal rods, sheet and wire, contacts in electronics and light filaments, together with tungsten alloys. These last include such super-alloys as Hastelloy (see Chromium: Not Just Fancy Trim) and stellite, both of which are used in turbine blades, tungsten-heavy metal alloys and tungsten alloys with titanium, tantalum or rhenium and dispersion-strengthened tungsten composites.

Other applications, such as specialist chemicals for lubricants, pigments and glazes, photo-chromic glass, various catalysts, X-ray machines, fire-proofing compounds, and beryllium (see Beryllium: Bombs And More (Much More), in nuclear reactors.

 

Primary End Uses of Tungsten – 2010

Source: International Tungsten Industry Association (ITIA)

 

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