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tungsten

tungsten (tŭngˈstən) [key] [Swed., = heavy stone], metallic chemical element; symbol W; at. no. 74; at. wt. 183.84; m.p. about 3,410°C; b.p. 5,660°C; sp. gr. 19.3 at 20°C; valence +2, +3, +4, +5, or +6. Tungsten is a very hard, silver-white to steel-gray metal with a body-centered cubic crystalline structure. In its chemical properties it resembles molybdenum, the element above it in Group 6 of the periodic table. It is sometimes called wolfram, and the chemical symbol is taken from this name; in naming compounds of tungsten, use of the name wolfram as a root is preferred. Tungsten is one of the most dense metals and has a higher melting point than any other metal. Pure tungsten is ductile, and wires made of it, even those of very small diameter, have a very high tensile strength. The element is resistant to ordinary acids and aqua regia but dissolves in a mixture of hydrofluoric and nitric acids. It forms compounds with carbon, chlorine, oxygen, sulfur, and some other elements. It is hexavalent in its most important compounds. It forms tungstic acid (H2WO4), or wolframic acid, which is the basis of a series of salts called tungstates, or wolframates. Tungsten metal is used extensively for filaments for light bulbs and electronic tubes. Carboloy, stellite, and tungsten steels are of importance in industry because they retain their hardness and strength at high temperatures. Tungsten is usually added to steel in the form of ferrotungsten, obtained by the reduction of ferrous tungstate in an electric furnace. Tungsten carbide is used in place of diamond for dies and as an abrasive. Sodium wolframate is used in the fireproofing of fabrics, in the weighting of silk, and as a mordant in dyeing. Tungsten does not occur uncombined in nature; large deposits of its ores are found in various parts of the world. The trioxide occurs in nature as the mineral wolfram ochre; scheelite and wolframite are the chief wolframate minerals. Tungsten is usually prepared from the trioxide by reduction with hydrogen or carbon. Tungsten was first isolated from tungstic acid in 1783 by the de Elhuyar brothers.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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