What is Tungsten?
Tungsten is a metal that is more than twice as dense as steel. It was discovered in 1781, and only appears naturally when in combination mineral form along with calcium, iron, or manganese. Although we’ve known about tungsten for 236 years, it wasn’t till 150 years later that we found any industrial application for it, such as in replacement furnace parts or products for custom vacuum furnace use, among other things.
What are the Properties of Tungsten?
One reason that tungsten is used for replacement furnace parts is its high melting point. Of all pure metals, none is so heat resistant as tungsten, which does not melt until 6,170 degrees F. At 1,510 megapascals, it also has the highest tensile strength of any pure metal, and the lowest vapor pressure of all. That makes tungsten crucibles essential for certain kinds of manufacturing and the creation of alloys in vacuum furnaces.
How Prevalent is Tungsten
Not very. It is estimated there are only 1.25 grams of tungsten for every 1,000 kilograms of the Earth’s crust. The main mining areas for this rare metal are in China, although there are also mines in Russia, Austria, and several countries of South America. Approximately 30% of the world’s current demand for tungsten is met by recycling.
What is Tungsten Used For?
Tungsten manufacturing provides replacement furnace parts for vacuum furnaces, which are used in electronics, medical applications, the growth of crystals, and for the energy production fields. Tungsten is useful for these applications because its high melting point since vacuum furnaces regularly operate at temperatures higher than 2,190 degrees F. Tungsten also makes good cutting tools for machining steel and is used in microchips and liquid crystal displays. It also makes up the filaments of some light bulbs, provides high-quality electric contacts for electrodes, and is the primary ingredient in the emitter coils of x-rays.
Are There Any Problems With Using Tungsten?
There are no known long-term health effects from exposure to tungsten, but short-term direct exposure can result in skin and eye irritation. It does not seem to be particularly hazardous to the environment. It does sometimes react with molybdenum, and molybdenum, though it has a lower melting point than tungsten, is sometimes used for replacement furnace parts because it is less likely to react with certain chemicals.
Tungsten, like other pure metals, is highly useful in certain modern applications. Without it, we would not be able to use vacuum furnaces or even create rocket engines as we do now. And now you know all about it!