Tungsten: the essentials

Pure tungsten is a steel-gray to tin-white metal. Tungsten has the highest melting point and lowest vapour pressure of all metals, and at temperatures over 1650°C has the highest tensile strength. The metal oxidises in air and must be protected at elevated temperatures. It has excellent corrosion resistance and is attacked only slightly by most mineral acids.

tungsten wire
Small and large samples of tungsten wire like this, as well as foil, sheet, wire straight cut lengths, insulated wire, and mesh (and tungsten alloys in wire form), can be purchased from Advent Research Materials via their web catalogue.

Tungsten: historical information

Tungsten was discovered by Fausto and Juan Jose de Elhuyar in 1783 at Spain. Origin of name: from the Swedish words "tung sten" meaning "heavy stone" (the origin of the symbol W is "wolfram ", named after the tungsten mineral wolframite).

Tungsten used to be known as wolfram (from wolframite, said to be named from wolf rahm or spumi lupi, because the ore interfered with the smelting of tin and was supposed to devour the tin). The de Elhuyar brothers found an acid in wolframite in 1783 that they succeeded in reducing to the elemental metal with charcoal.

Tungsten around us Read more »

Tungsten has a limited biological role. A number of enzymes (oxidoreductases) employ tungsten in a way related to molybdenum, (using tungsten.pterin complex). The structure of a tungstoenzyme aldehyde ferredoxin oxidoreductase is known (Protein Data Bank code 1AOR).

Tungsten is found in wolframite (iron-manganese tungstate, FeWO4/MnWO4) and scheelite (calcium tungstate, CaWO4) ores. China produces 75% of the world's tungsten.

Abundances for tungsten in a number of different environments. More abundance data »
Location ppb by weight ppb by atoms Links
Universe 0.5 0.003 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the universe on a miniature periodic table spark table
Crustal rocks 1100 120 Chemical elements abundance by weight in the earth's crust on a miniature periodic table spark table
Human (no data) ppb by weight (no data) atoms relative to C = 1000000 Chemical elements abundance by weight in humans on a miniature periodic table spark table

Physical properties Read more »

Heat properties Read more »

Crystal structure Read more »

The solid state structure of tungsten is: bcc (body-centred cubic).

Tungsten: orbital properties Read more »

Tungsten atoms have 74 electrons and the shell structure is The ground state electronic configuration of neutral Tungsten is [Xe].4f14.5d4.6s2 and the term symbol of Tungsten is 5D0.


Isolation: coming soon!

Tungsten isotopes Read more »

Tungsten isotopes are used in several applications. W-180 is used for the production of the therapeutic radioisotope W-181. W-186 is used for the production of W-188 which is used in so-called Tungsten-Rhenium generators. The W-188 daughter Re-188 is (milked( from there generators and used as a therapeutic radioisotope. W-184 has been used to study the elastic and inelastic scattering of heavy ions.

Table. Stables isotopes of tungsten.
Isotope Mass
(atom %)
spin (I)
moment (μ/μN)
180W 179.946701 (5) 0.12 (1) 0
182W 181.948202 (3) 26.50 (16) 0
183W 182.950220 (3) 14.31 (4) 1/2 0.1177847
184W 183.950928 (3) 30.64 (2) 0
186W 185.954357 (4) 28.43 (19) 0

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