The silvery-white lustrous metal of tungsten (element 74 on the periodic table) is becoming more prominent as an alloy base and as a component in its most popular form, tungsten carbide. Both have a number of unique properties that make them ideal for certain applications, but understanding the difference between the two can help designers choose the best material to use for their projects. This article will compare the physical, mechanical and working properties of elemental tungsten to tungsten carbide, as well as several other metals.
Tungsten is extremely tough, with a tensile strength that is almost double that of steel. This makes it very useful for materials that experience high amounts of bending and deformation, such as abrasive wear applications. It also exhibits a high thermal expansion coefficient, making it suitable for glass-to-metal seals and other applications with very intense thermal stress.
Due to its extreme hardness, tungsten has a low coefficient of friction, meaning it resists scratching and marking very well. It is the basis of many tungsten carbide alloys that are used to give hardness to cutting edges for saws, drills and other tools, or to create penetrating cores for armour-piercing projectiles.
Tungsten Carbide is a very hard, dense, metallic substance that consists of pure tungsten mixed with carbon and other elements to form a cemented compound. It is fabricated using powdered tungsten, cobalt or another metal and a process that involves heating the mixture to high temperatures until it melts. The resulting wet mass is then formed into the desired shape, such as a cutting blade, and bonded with other metals to give them specific characteristics like corrosion resistance.