Tungsten was discovered in 1783. It was originally known as wolfram because the mineral, wolframite, played an important role in the discovery of this element. Some German journals still prefer to refer to tungsten by its original name.

Pure tungsten is relatively soft and can be cut with a hacksaw. But small amounts of impurities render the metal hard and brittle. Therefore, its ductility depends a lot on the purity of the samples. Tungsten has the highest melting point (3410oC)of all the elements. At high temperature, when most other metals vaporize, tungsten glows with a brilliant white light. Together with its strong electrical conductivity, tungsten is well-known as a metal used for making filaments in incandescent light bulbs.

Tungsten is also an alloying element in steel. Tungsten steel is noted for its strength and stability at high temperatures. Nozzles for rocket engines are made from tungsten steel. Tungsten is also a component of cathodes in electronic devices and of welding electrodes. Tungsten carbide, WC, is used in machine tools and metal-cutting dies. Various alloys are also used in electric circuitry.

BCIT Chemistry Resource Center