Primary Uses of Tungsten

tools
by Windell Oskay (flickr)

Primary Uses of Tungsten

I like metal. Not the music, though like most people I can appreciate a good power ballad from time to time. I guess more accurately I should say I like metals. They are shiny, pretty, and they can be used to make pretty things, like rings! One of the metals I've been reading up on more and more lately is tungsten. Uses of this metal abound! Jewelry is just the start; thanks to its unique properties (think high density, almost diamond like hardness, chemically and thermally stable, good conductor, etc.) it's also used in everything from industrial applications to light bulbs. Ready to explore some more of the uses of tungsten? Let's do this!

Tools

Tungsten carbide, which is made up of equal parts carbon atoms and tungsten, is used to make tools for cutting and drilling. The metal is resistant to abrasion and can tolerate temperatures higher than steel, making tungsten a great alternative to the standard. Cutting tools made of tungsten carbide are actually used to cut steel.

Nuclear

An effective neutron reflector, tungsten was used during nuclear experimentation in the early stages of research. Pretty and dangerous! I'm going to start referring to tungsten as the James Bond of metals! Shaken not stirred! Or… well… probably best NOT to mess with the dangerous side of (tungsten). I'll leave that to the professionals and just focus on the shiny pretty parts. Moving on!

Ammunition

Haha! Okay, maybe not quite moving onto the shiny and pretty yet and focusing a little more on the dangerous stuff. (Tungsten) is also used in ammunition made to pierce through armor.

Medical Instruments

Tungsten saves lives with a little help of the medical professionals who wield surgical instruments made from it. It's more expensive than steel, so it isn't used as widely, but instruments meant for open surgery such as forceps, blade-handles, scissors, and hemostats have been made. (Tungsten) has also been used to make instruments meant for use in laparoscopic surgery.

Ballpoint Pens

You know that little ball that rotates in the tip of your ballpoint pen? It might be made of tungsten carbide. In fact, there is a pretty good chance it is.

Sports

The world of sports has found lots of uses for tungsten. Uses include being used in trekking poles, in the drive tracks of snowmobiles, and in some bicycle tires to improve traction on the ice.

Jewelry

I'll ignore your shocked gasps when I tell you this one is my favorite! Because it is extremely hard and scratch resistant, a lot of jewelry that is meant to be worn regularly or long term - wedding and engagement jewelry for example - is made of tungsten. It's around 10x harder than 18 karat gold and can be polished to be comparably shiny.

These are just some of the popular uses of tungsten. It has been used in a lot of other things too, from electronics to X-Ray tubes. I touched on a few of these uses briefly in my blog post comparing Titanium to other metals, including tungsten! If you haven't read that yet please feel free to go do that now! Let me know if you know of any particularly interesting uses of tungsten in the comments! TTFN!

by: Vanessa LeBeau