What is Tungsten?
- Tungsten is a metal with unique properties making it an essential component in many industrial applications. Critical properties include - very high melting point, very high density, hardness close to diamond, thermally and chemically stable, excellent conductor, and environmentally benign.
- The most important use is as tungsten carbide in hardmetals, used mainly for industrial drilling and cutting tools. Secondary uses are in electronics and specialist steels.
- China accounts for over 80% of world tungsten mine production; western world supply is very limited.
- USA, Europe and Japan consume ~55% of world tungsten, but produce only ~5%.
- Chinese domestic demand has increased, and China has moved from a net exporter to net importer of tungsten concentrates.
- Tungsten prices have more than doubled since the start of 2010
- Concerns over security of supply of tungsten concentrates to western processors and industry end-users resulted in the EU categorising tungsten as a "critical raw material".
- Tungsten demand is forecasted to grow by 5-8% annually between 2012 and 2016.
- Growth markets for tungsten are still being identified, such as nickel-tungsten alloys that could replace chrome plating and nickel-tungsten alloys that could replace gold-nickel plating.
- Tungsten, with essential applications in industry, aerospace and military, is a strategic commodity. US, Russia, China and Japan have indicated that they have or intend to build stockpiles.
Tungsten (symbol W) is an extremely hard, heavy, steel-gray metal that is one of the heaviest of all the elements, amazing for its strong physical properties and vast uses. It has the highest melting point of all the non-alloyed metals (3,410°C), the lowest vapor pressure and the highest tensile strength (19.3 gms/cc).
Tungsten does not occur naturally in its pure metallic state; rather, it is found in several ores, including wolframite and scheelite. Most of the world's reserves are in China, which supplies more than 80% of the world's demand. Tungsten is also found in Australia, Bolivia, USA, Russia, Portugal and Korea.
In its purest form it is quite pliant and can easily be processed. With high binding energy, tungsten alloys and some tungsten compounds cannot be substituted in many important applications in different fields of modern technology.
Tungsten is used in diverse applications and industries that range from aerospace and automotive to medical devices and machining and tooling to homeland security and sports and leisure. Its specific applications are almost endless and include weights and counterbalances, rotor blades, guidance platforms, vibration governors, radiation shielding, industrial instrumentation, electrical components, gyro rotors and fly wheels, ordnance components, armor penetrating applications, boring bars, grinding quills, die cast tooling and many others.