Tungsten can be rather expensive chemical element, but it’s largely because it’s used for so many things. Tungsten has one of the highest melting points, which is combined with the lowest coefficient of linear thermal expansion of any metal.
These qualities make it very desirable for some industrial applications. The demand for Tungsten certainly helps to raise the price beyond what one might expect.
Because it is so resistant to high temperatures, tungsten is used in many devices that produce heat. One of the most well known uses involves light bulbs. Incandescent and halogen technology is based around tungsten filaments.
Unlike many other substances, tungsten can resist acids. Concentrated nitric and hydrofluoric acid can corrode it, and alkaline oxidizing melt substances can also harm it. However, it’s otherwise a rather inert, durable element.
Tungsten also tends to be inert to the presence of oxygen, which means that it won’t readily rust like iron. There are countless reasons that people would want a substance to avoid reacting when in the presence of other chemicals, and this increases it’s longevity by quite a bit.
A large portion of the world’s tungsten goes into making tungsten steels. Some of these end up in the aerospace industry, where they’re used to make parts of rocket engines and reentry surfaces. Tungsten is used in tail ballasts for commercial air crafts, and also in NASCAR and Formula One cars. Tungsten processing is a very diverse field indeed.
That being said, not all uses of the peculiar metal are so exotic. It’s used for making many types of electronic appliances. Even tough tools and dies are made out of tungsten or tungsten carbide, and these tend to be very hard. Tungsten can also be used as a gold substitute, fishing lures, certain types of strings for musical instruments, high-quality darts, and even wedding rings.
While tungsten isn’t exactly rare, it’s uncommon enough for that to have an effect on its price. Around 1.5 parts per million of the Earth’s crust is estimated to be made of tungsten. This means that each ton of rock produces around 1.5 grams of the element.
This places it into the same category as elements like molybdenum or tin. Powerful magnets can be used to remove the ore from soil, though mechanical processes are also used to separate different types of ore. In either case, these techniques and the resulting labor costs definitely factor into the final price of the element.
John Reynolds provides this article on behalf of Chemical Wire. You can learn more about research chemicals at http://chemicalwire.com