Tungsten Metal has the distinction of being one of the hardest and densest materials, second only to diamond in hardness. It has an extremely high melting point at 6,192 ° F, with the highest tensile strength among all metals, capable of withstanding temperatures above 3,000 ° F. Its chemical symbol is ‘W’ and it has an atomic weight of 183.85 and the atomic number is 74. It was first isolated towards the end of the 18th century, almost by accident.
Today, tungsten is put to several uses, thanks to its unique properties. It can be mixed with other metals to form strong alloys, and is used widely where high tensile strengths are required. It was first used in its pure form as the filament in the ordinary incandescent light bulb. This was due to its high tensile strength that let it withstand high temperatures without melting. Tungsten is also used in starters of fluorescent bulbs, otherwise known as tube lights. Pure tungsten also goes into the making of heating elements for high-temperature electric furnaces that are used in iron and steel foundries and aluminum smelting plants.
Tungsten is also extensively used in the manufacture of medical equipment like X-ray units, where it forms the important electron beam in the vacuum tubes present inside. It is also used in industrial imaging equipment. This pure metal has several other applications and is also used in fishing weights and shotgun pellets that are free of lead. High temperature welding rods and heavy darts used in sporting events also feature this unique metal.
In addition to tungsten being used in its pure form, it is used extensively in making several strong alloys. A very hard substance is formed when tungsten is alloyed with carbon in proper proportions. This alloy is used in making the heads of golf clubs, high-speed drill bits, lathe cutting tools, and grinding wheels. The other industrial uses include milling bits that are made from tungsten carbide alloy, nozzles used in water jet-cutters, hack-saw blades and artillery shells that are capable of piercing armor.
Tungsten is also combined with various other metals like cobalt, copper, nickel and iron to form tough alloys, where almost 90% of the alloy content is tungsten. When cobalt is added to a tungsten alloy, the strength is enhanced manifold as is its ductility. Tungsten-cobalt combination is wear resistant, whereas a copper-tungsten alloy is wear resistant and a great electrical conductor, making it the choice for electrical wiring products. Of late though, due to its sheen, and scratch resistant properties, tungsten carbide is used extensively in making several jewelry products.