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Teaming Up with Tungsten for a Stronger Tomorrow: Uses of Tungsten

Photo By: Anderson Mancini (Flickr)

I'm a big proponent of 'know before you buy'; so, I wanted to share a bit of background about one of our most popular materials. Tungsten is one of the planet's most sought after transition metals, mainly because it has the highest melting point of all elements on the periodic table. The grayish-white, shiny metal sits at room temperature when at a solid state and the properties of tungsten are of a high density.

Tungsten - Occurrence and Extraction

The proportion of tungsten in the earth's crust is very low, with the largest deposits found in the USA, China, Korea, and Austria. The world's largest tungsten conveyor is China. Pure tungsten and tungsten carbide is obtained by various chemical methods, giving consumers the uses for tungsten they know of today.

The density of the element is 19.25 g / cm ³ and is, thus, similar to the density of gold. Also, the hardness and tensile strength of the element is very high. Personally, I think that the most interesting property of the tungsten is that the metal will finally melt at 3422 ° C, the highest of all metals on the planet.

Versatile Use

Tungsten uses have grown exponentially, due to its valued properties. Drilling and cutting equipment, generally those in the material processing for the defense industry, electronics, medicine and X-ray technology, have grown in the past decade because of the technological advancements of the metal. Furthermore, other items like golf clubs, darts, and even ball point pens have seen a jump in creativity and advancements because of the uses of tungsten.

Therefore, tungsten uses should not be narrowed only to the light bulb. Here sits a metal with exceptional qualities, which often meets us every day in high-tech and low-tech products, most of which we do not recognize or even consider. The ball point pen you're holding may have tungsten in it, or, maybe it's the new wedding rings you bought – a friend of mine's husband has one and loves it. Either way, the uses for tungsten are growing by the month.


Tungsten is used as filament in light bulbs and electrodes in gas discharge lamps, because of its high melting point in the lighting industry. Since the electrical conductivity of tungsten is significantly lower than that of copper and aluminum wire, the thin tungsten filament heats up until it starts to glow, while the thicker line from the tungsten hardly warms.

Uses for tungsten take us to iron metallurgy. The metal is used in increasing secondary hardness. Due to its high density, it is used for counterweight and radiation shielding. Although the density and shielding effect is significantly higher than that of lead, it is more expensive and more difficult to process.

Also, armor-piercing ammunition is used with a projectile core made from tungsten carbide instead of the cheaper (but more toxic and radioactive depleted uranium) because of the high density of tungsten. In the field of medical technology, especially neurophysiology, tungsten microelectrodes are used for extracellular recordings. When it comes to sports, tungsten produced high quality barrels for the game of darts.

Because of its special properties, like high hardness and scratch resistance, tungsten carbide is used for making jewelry. Since it is the hardest known material after a diamond, the processing and manufacturing is relatively difficult. Regardless of its hardness, the material can be polished very well and the surface can go many years with a deep mirror shine. This gloss gives the tungsten jewelry an elegant, extravagant design. The extreme hardness and scratch resistance makes tungsten virtually indestructible.