Tungsten is known as one of the toughest things found in nature. The element naturally occurs in the minerals scheelite, wolframite, huebnertie and ferberite. It is harvested from the minerals by reducing tungsten oxide with hydrogen or carbon. Pure tungsten is a silver-white metal and when made into a fine powder can be combustible and can spontaneously ignite. Tungsten is used in many ways because it is very strong and durable, when it is made into compounds. Pure tungsten is very soft. It is incredibly dense and almost impossible to melt, as well as very resistant to corrosion. Most tungsten resources are found in China, South Korea, Bolivia, Great Britain, Russia and Portugal, as well as in California and Colorado.
Because of its strength tungsten carbide is used to harden saw blades and make drill bits. Diamonds are the only things harder than some tungsten alloys. Some jewellers also use tungsten carbide to make rings and other pieces. Tungsten is also used in the manufacturing of paints, making glass-to-metal seals and creating electron and television tubes. The military uses Tungsten to make bullets and missiles used in “kinetic bombardment.”
Its resistance to heat properties are important when used in electrical furnaces, spacecraft applications, welding and other high-temperature applications. Historically, it was used in making different types of lighting, as it was highly resistant to heat. The hotter a filament can get without melting, the brighter the bulb. Today, though, most bulbs use more energy efficient materials. It is still used in X-ray filaments and in electrical contacts of various electronics, however.
- Lighting filaments
- Electrical component