Titanium vs. Tungsten: What Are the Key Differences?
Tungsten and titanium are well-liked materials for jewelry and industrial use due to their distinct properties. Titanium is a popular metal because of its hypoallergenic qualities and reputation for being lightweight and resistant to corrosion. Yet, those looking for longevity will find tungsten appealing because of its exceptional hardness and scratch resistance.
Both metals have a sleek, contemporary appearance, but their weights and compositions are very different. When choosing between titanium and tungsten for rings or other accessories, it is important to be aware of these differences.
This article will discuss the difference between titanium vs tungsten in terms of composition, applications, advantages, and disadvantages.
Titanium (Ti), a transition metal with a distinctive white-silvery appearance, occurs exclusively as an oxide in nature. Pure titanium possesses high strength and exceptional corrosion resistance. It also resists water but dissolves in concentrated acids. This exceptional combination of qualities positions titanium as a coveted material across diverse sectors, from aerospace to medical applications.
Gregorite is another term for titanium, and it bears the name of the Reverend William Gregor, who made the metal's discovery in Cornwall, England, in 1791. The term is historically significant, reflecting the early identification of the element.
Titanium is found in minerals like ilmenite, rutile, and sphene, as well as titanates and certain ores. Commercially, it is produced by reducing titanium (IV) chloride with magnesium, showcasing a specific manufacturing process.
Titanium is made using the Kroll method. It involves: extraction, purification, (metallic) sponge production, alloy synthesis, and shaping. Impure titanium tetrachloride is made by processing titanium concentrates with carbon and chlorine gas. Distillation is used in purification to separate contaminants. When the refined liquid and magnesium combine, a porous titanium sponge is created. Treatment in an arc furnace transforms these “sponges” into titanium alloys. After going through inspection, the resulting ingot can be treated further to create a variety of goods.
Titanium comes in six pure grades (1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 11) and four distinct alloy types. Predominantly, Ti 6Al-4V (Grade 5 alloy) stands out as the "workhorse" of titanium alloys, extensively employed in aerospace, medical, and marine applications. Ti 6Al-4V ELI (Grade 23 alloy), known as surgical titanium, excels in malleability and corrosion resistance, making it ideal for medical and dental surgeries. Ti 3Al 2.5 (Grade 9 alloy) combines stainless steel characteristics with high-temperature strength, widely used in manufacturing, chemical, and marine industries. Ti 5Al-2.5Sn (Grade 6 alloy) is a non-heat-treatable alloy with exceptional weldability, stability, and strength, notably applied in aircraft and airframe components.
The advantages of titanium include:
- Forms a protective titanium dioxide layer, preventing rust and corrosion.
- Is 100% recyclable, minimizing waste and ensuring long-lasting structures.
- About half the weight of steel, making it ideal for strong and lightweight structures.
- It boasts the highest strength-to-density ratio among metals, making it valuable in aerospace manufacturing.
The disadvantages of titanium include:
- Is pricier compared to alternative metals like aluminum or steel.
- Scarcity in certain areas may make it challenging to find titanium quickly or in large quantities.
- Producing titanium involves specific equipment and knowledge, which increases production time and expense. Titanium is not as easily castable as iron or aluminum, which restricts its use in casting applications.
- Welding titanium is complex due to its high melting temperature and reactivity, demanding specialized skills and risking material damage.
No, tungsten is stronger than titanium in terms of tensile strength. Tungsten boasts a tensile strength of 142,000 psi, significantly higher than titanium's 63,000 psi. Though titanium has a better mix of strength and toughness, tungsten is more brittle and prone to breaking under impact, therefore it's important to take into account all of the characteristics of both metals. Figure 1 shows two wedding rings made of Tungsten:
Two Tungsten wedding rings.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Lapis2380
Tungsten (W) is a strong, silver-white refractory metal. On Earth, it is naturally rare and is mostly found in compounds with other elements. When pure tungsten is coarsely powdered, it can catch fire and ignite on its own. Tungsten is a common refractory substance used in steels to increase strength and hardness. In addition to its remarkable longevity, it is also used in lightbulb filaments.
Tungsten is also known as Wolfram. This other name is often used in a variety of settings, mirroring how the element was originally identified by the term wolfram.
Tungsten is not found in its pure form in nature but is primarily sourced from minerals like wolframite and scheelite. Wolframite is a solid solution of ferberite and hübnerite, containing iron, manganese, and tungstate. Scheelite, another source, is composed of calcium tungstate. These minerals serve as the main raw materials for extracting tungsten.
Tungsten is primarily extracted from the minerals wolframite and scheelite, which are obtained through surface and underground mining. While underground mining uses shafts and tunnels, surface mining removes the rock and soil that is above the required minerals. The ores are crushed and cleaned, then treated with alkali to create tungsten trioxide (WO3). This compound is then heated with carbon or hydrogen gas to produce tungsten metal along with carbon dioxide or water vapor. Juan Jose and Fausto Elhuyar devised the production process.
There are several forms of tungsten available, such as: cemented carbide, heavy metal tungsten alloys, pure tungsten, and alloyed tungsten. The most widely used is tungsten carbide, a strong tungsten and carbon alloy that is well-known for its chemical resistance, strength, and tool-making uses. Industrial pumps, mining equipment, and cutting tools are among the many applications for cobalt-alloyed cemented carbide. While heavy metal tungsten alloys have few additions, alloyed tungsten blends tungsten with metals like copper for particular qualities. Furthermore, tungsten-based chemicals are used in a variety of applications, such as ceramics and pigments, and pure tungsten is used in electrical applications.
The advantages of tungsten include:
- Ideal for racing car ballast, alloys, and compact, weighty applications.
- Maintains stability in tools under extreme heat conditions.
- Thrives in corrosive environments, such as marine applications.
- Boasts an extremely high melting point.
- Used in X-ray targets, radiation shielding, and electronic components.
The disadvantages of tungsten include:
- Tungsten's hardness poses challenges in cutting, drilling, and welding.
- Is more expensive compared to metals like zinc alloy, stainless steel, and titanium.
- The metal's highest melting point among metals can complicate fabrication processes.
- Tungsten's hardness makes it prone to cracking or shattering on impact, unlike more malleable metals like titanium.
- Tungsten rings cannot be resized due to their durability, requiring the purchase of a new ring for size changes.
Yes, tungsten is stronger than titanium. Tungsten has a higher hardness scale rating (8.5 to 9) compared to titanium (6), making it more scratch-resistant. The drawback of tungsten's strength is that the metal is extremely brittle and is prone to breaking or shattering under pressure. Titanium is less hard than steel, but because of its greater malleability, it offers considerable flexibility and is less likely to break when dropped.
Take your desired priorities into consideration when deciding between titanium and tungsten for jewelry or other uses. Tungsten may be better if you value hardness and scratch resistance, but be mindful of its brittleness. Titanium, with its strength, corrosion resistance, and reduced weight, strikes a good compromise. To choose the material that best suits your needs, consider your lifestyle, your preferences, and the particular application.
Table 1 highlights the properties of titanium vs. tungsten:
Hardness (Mohs Scale)
Yes, arc welding is possible on both titanium and tungsten. The most widely used welding methods for titanium and related alloys are gas metal arc (GMA or MIG) and gas tungsten arc (GTA or TIG). These techniques are ideal for welding these materials in a variety of applications because they provide exact control.
Yes, both titanium and tungsten are scratch-resistant. Titanium is approximately three times as strong and scratch-resistant as gold. Tungsten, being the stronger of the two metals, is even more scratch-resistant, making it a durable choice for jewelry and other applications in which resistance to scratches is essential.
Yes, titanium is more resistant to cracking compared to tungsten. Titanium resists breaking better than other metals because it is softer and easier to bend. Though tungsten is strong, it can also be brittle, increasing the possibility that it will fracture under extreme pressure or force.
Tungsten costs $3.25 per pound, while titanium costs $0.35 per pound. Despite the seemingly low cost per pound, it's important to note that the pricing for these metals is often influenced by various factors, including form, purity, and processing, so direct comparisons based solely on weight may not fully reflect the overall cost.
Tungsten and titanium are two different metals with special qualities. One way to recognize titanium is by gauging how lightweight it is; titanium has a low density. On the other hand, tungsten is almost four times as dense as titanium (and more than twice the density of steel). One of the most important things to consider when differentiating between these metals is weight, with titanium being regarded as a relatively low-density metal and tungsten being quite the opposite.
Titanium and tungsten are two metals that are relatively useful and find relevance in several applications. Titanium’s applications are listed below:
- Titanium's strength-to-weight ratio excels in aerospace components, reducing aircraft weight without compromising integrity.
- Its biocompatibility and corrosion-resistance make it pivotal in medical implants.
- It enhances sports gear and boasts a modern aesthetic in jewelry design.
Tungsten applications are listed below:
- Tungsten's high melting point allows for the illumination of lightbulbs.
- It can also function as a cutting tool as a result of its hardness.
- Contribute to microelectronics and radiation shielding in electronics.
- It proves desirable in jewelry making.
Titanium is a popular metal for use in aerospace and medicine because of its lightweight nature and ability to withstand corrosion. Strong tools and electronics employ tungsten because of its high density and hardness, which allow it to withstand harsh environments.
Yes, titanium is suitable for shipbuilding. Its high strength, corrosion resistance, and lightweight properties contribute to improved fuel efficiency and durability, making it an excellent choice for maritime applications.
Xometry offers comprehensive manufacturing solutions for titanium or tungsten needs. With a focus on on-demand precise manufacturing, Xometry offers a range of services including design, CNC machining, milling, turning, 3D printing, injection molding, sheet metal fabrication, and urethane casting. They are a one-stop solution for a variety of industrial needs because of their broad range of capabilities.
This article presented the titanium and tungsten, explained each of them, and discussed their key differences. To learn more about both titanium and tungsten, contact a Xometry representative.
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