IYPT 2019 Elements 074: Tungsten: Tools, bulbs, and counterfeit gold

Element 74 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is tungsten. Tungsten is used in tools and armour-piercing bullets and has also been used to make counterfeit gold.

Tungsten carbide is one of the hardest known substances – harder than steel and titanium. For this reason it’s used in drill bits, armour-piercing bullets and mining tools.

A major use of tungsten was in the filaments of incandescent light bulbs. Tungsten was used for this purpose partly because it has the highest melting point of any pure metal. As incandescent light bulbs have been phased out of domestic use in most countries this is no longer a major use.

Tungsten’s density is very close to that of gold. Consequently, it’s been used in the past to make counterfeit gold bars. Commonly, these are created by filling a gold exterior with tungsten.

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.