A heavy, dense metal that is only slightly less hard than a diamond (7.5 on the Mohs scale), tungsten carbide is a unique material that has many applications. It can withstand high temperatures, making it ideal for construction materials and tools, as well as being used in furnaces and even to conduct electricity. It can also be formed into many shapes and sizes, and is often used as a substitute for stainless steel in situations where it's more practical.
Tungsten carbide is made by chemically bonding together tungsten and carbon. It is most commonly found in the form of cemented carbide, in which tungsten carbide grains are embedded in a binder matrix such as nickel or cobalt, which helps to reduce the brittleness of the material. The choice of the amount and type of binder can greatly impact the mechanical properties of tungsten carbide.
The use of tungsten carbide is expanding rapidly due to its excellent wear resistance, low temperature expansion rate and high density. The material is also highly resistant to corrosion and can withstand abrasion better than any other known melted or cast alloy. It also has good ductility, is a very strong electrical conductor and can be used as an alternative to stainless steel in applications where corrosion is a concern.
One of the most popular uses for tungsten carbide is for manufacturing cutting and mining tools, which account for around 65% of the material's consumption worldwide. Its abrasion- and heat-resistance makes it more effective than steel in such applications, and its dimensional stability means it will not warp or deform under the strain of repeated use.