An Overview about the Chemical Element Tungsten

Lynette Alice's image for:
"An Overview about the Chemical Element Tungsten"
Image by: 

The chemical element tungsten carrying the chemical symbol of "W" is taken from a Swedish phrase which means "heavy stone." It is one ot the metals known as a transition metal with the highest melting point of any metal which is 6,170 degrees Fahrenheit (3,410 degrees Celsius). As such tungsten tungsten does not lose it's strength at super high temperatures which make it valuable for producing metal alloys. Below is an overview of tungsten including it's characteristics, history and uses.

Tungsten can be found on the Periodic Table of Elements in group six (VIB) under it symbol "W" which is derived from an alternate name for the element which is wolfram, and it's atomic mass number of seventy four. It's atomic mass is 183.85 and it's proper pronunciation is TUNG-stun. The discovery of tungsten is shared by three different men; A Swedish chemist named Carl Wilhelm Schele (1742-1786), the Spanish scientist Don Fausto D'Elhuyard who lived from 1755 - 1833, and his older brother Don Jose D'Elhuyard (1754 - 1796). Johan Gottlob Lehman who was a German chemist (1719 - 1767) first referenced tungsten around 1761 when studying wolframite, hence the alternate name of wolfram. While he realized he found two new substances he failed to recognize they were two new elements.

It wasn't until around twenty years later that Schele produced an acidic white powder (Which wound up being tungstic acid) while studying the mineral which he realized was a new substance that he was on to something big. Try as he might he could not however he could not isolate a single pure element from it. It was in 1783 when the D'Elhuyard brothers who newly returned from studying mineralogy in Sweden prepared tungsten metal for the first time. This was the product of studies they conducted like Schele in which they produced tungstic acid but managed to go further and actually extract pure tungsten metal from the acid which is why they are widely regarded as the true discoverer's of tungsten.

In it's natural state tungsten is a hard brittle metal whose color varies from off-white to steel-gray with a density of 19.2 grams per cubic centimeter. With the above mentioned highest melting point of all elements and a boiling point of 10,600 degrees Fahrenheit (5,900 degrees Celsius) tungsten is a great conductor for electrical current as well as alloy production. This is further proved by it's fairly stable nature in which it doesn't readily corrode in temperatures under 700 degrees Fahrenheit (400 degrees Celsius) and in that it further does bot readily react with acids. It does however dissolve in nitric acid or aqua regia which is a mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acids. It is further separated by the fact it reacts with materials that do not readily react with either hydrochloric or nitric acid separately.

Tungsten never occurs as a free element in nature which is a bit unusual and makes it one of the rarer elements at about 1.5 parts per million in the earths crust. It is most commonly located in the minerals scheelite, wolframite, calcium tungstate, or iron manganese. China, Russia, and Portugal are the largest producers of tungsten although the U.S. does not disclose information about tungstens production or use to protect the companies working with it. Tungsten has five naturally occurring isotopes however which are; Tungsten-180, tungsten-182, tungsten-183, tungsten-184, and tungsten-186 which two or more forms of an element differentiated from one another by their atomic mass numbers. The numbers following tungsten isotopes (Or any isotope for that matter) are their atomic weight numbers which is the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus of an atom. Tungsten also has about a dozen radioactive isotopes.

Tungsten can e obtained by heating tungsten oxide with aluminum or by passing hydrogen gas over tungstic acid. Commercially tungstens most important use is in making alloys as it increases hardness, strength, tensile strength, and elasticity. Ferrotungsten is the product of mixing tungsten with iron which is then mixed with other metals and alloys (Primarily steel) to make further more specialized alloys. These can all be tweaked by changing the proportion of the original ferrotungsten formula which is generally seventy to eighty percent tungsten. Somewhere in the neighborhood of ninety percent of all tungsten alloys are used construction, metalworking/electrical machinery, or mining. The remainder is made up by use in incandescent light filaments and other such things which require very high melting points and excellent conductivity.

With the immensely valuable physical properties of tungsten and the fact that in moderate amounts it poses no health risk to humans tungsten is a very desired element. It plays a major role in industry and our daily lives as we likely find ourselves using something tungsten is mixed into everyday.

More about this author: Lynette Alice

From Around the Web