What is Tungsten? - Definition, Properties & Uses

Instructor: Marauo Davis

Marauo has taught both chemistry and mathematics in the high school and college setting and has a Ph.D. degree in chemistry.

What's the first thing you do when you walk in a dark room? Turn on the light! But what makes the light bulb emit light? The answer is tungsten. This lesson will help you understand the definition, properties, and uses for this useful element.

What is Tungsten?

Tungsten is an element that gets very little attention in day-to-day life, but this important element is used for everything from the household incandescent light bulb to radiation shielding. It has the chemical abbreviation W and atomic number 74, and tungsten is one of the elements known by it Latin name - in this case, wolfram, hence the reason for its chemical abbreviation.

This element is a member of the transition metals and sits in the same periodic table column as chromium and molybdenum. In fact, tungsten is the heaviest member of this group and has an atomic mass of 183 grams per mole.

Tungsten sits in the sixth column of the periodic table of elements.
periodic table

Properties of Tungsten

Tungsten is a solid at room temperature and possesses the highest known melting point and lowest vapor pressure of any metals. It also has the highest tensile strength known. Furthermore, due to tungsten's excellent corrosion resistance, it is highly resilient to attack by acids.

The element takes on a grayish to white appearance, and like all other metals, tungsten is malleable. It is quite ductile and can be readily drawn into a wire. However, it's much more easily pressed out than most other metals. Due to its high class properties, tungsten is able to be used in a host of real-world applications.

Uses for Tungsten

Tungsten is generally not a household name, so few people might realize that there are a host of applications for this useful element. For instance, due to its extremely high melting point and ductilibility, tungsten is very readily employed in incandescent and fluorescent light bulb filaments. So, next time you step in a room and flick the light switch on, know that tungsten is playing a part in illuminating the room.

Tungsten is used in incandescent light bulb filaments.

Moreover, tungsten is also used as the primary element in television tubes. The extraordinarily high-temperature properties of tungsten also make it useful for X-ray production and as heating elements in furnaces, since it is able to withstand the high temperatures. Simply put, when you think high temperature, think tungsten, and there is a good chance it is present there!

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