Density of Tungsten

The Density of Tungsten

Tungsten is known for being an incredibly dense metal. Density refers to how much mass is contained within a given volume of a material. Materials with higher densities pack more mass into the same amount of space compared to less dense substances. For many applications, high density is a desirable property, and tungsten excels in this regard. With a density of 19.3 g/cm3, tungsten is one of the densest metals found in nature. To put this into perspective, tungsten is almost twice as dense as lead and over three times denser than iron. This remarkably high density gives tungsten the reputation of being an extremely heavy metal. Tungsten's unique density stems from its atomic structure and chemical properties. The tungsten atom has a very high atomic number of 74, meaning it contains many protons and neutrons within its nucleus. This contributes significantly to its weight. Tungsten atoms also bond tightly together, packing densely into a compact crystalline structure rather than a more open lattice. These factors make tungsten substantially heavier than most other metals. The heavyweight properties of tungsten have many important implications. Its extreme density allows tungsten to be used for applications requiring high mass in a small volume, like counterweights and ballast. At the same time, tungsten's density makes it challenging to machine and fabricate. Overall, the uniquely high density of tungsten gives it a weight and heft unmatched by most metallic elements. This distinctive attribute leads to specialized uses across science, engineering, and industry.

What is Density and How Does Tungsten’s Density Stack Up

Density is a measure of how much mass is contained in a given volume of a material. It is calculated by dividing the mass of an object by its volume. The density of a material is usually expressed in grams per cubic centimeter (g/cm3).

Tungsten has an extremely high density, with a standard value of 19.25 g/cm3. This makes tungsten one of the densest metals known. Its high density gives tungsten some unique properties that make it suitable for many specialized applications.

The density of tungsten can vary slightly depending on factors like impurities and crystalline structure. However, it generally falls within the range of 18-21 g/cm3. This exceptionally high density range is what classifies tungsten as a heavy metal.

Significance of Tungsten's High Density

The remarkably high density of tungsten has several important implications:

  • Tungsten's density makes it useful for applications requiring high mass in a compact space, like counterweights and radiation shielding.
  • Its density lends itself to tungsten being used in applications where vibration damping and impact resistance are needed.
  • The density also contributes to tungsten's uniquely high melting point, as dense materials tend to have high melting points.
  • Alloys containing tungsten often leverage its high density to achieve increased mass without taking up more volume.

The exceptionally high density of tungsten relative to other metals is central to its identity and utility as an engineering material. Tungsten's density allows it to serve specialized functions that other, less dense metals cannot perform as effectively.

What was tungsten originally called?

Tungsten was originally known as wolfram. The name "wolfram" originated from the mineral wolframite, which is one of the main ores of tungsten. The word ""wolfram"" itself has an interesting history. It comes from the Swedish words ""wolf"" (meaning wolf) and ""ram"" (meaning foam), referring to the difficulties miners faced when extracting tungsten from the ore.

tungsten history

How Dense is Tungsten Compared to Water?

Tungsten is an incredibly dense metal, with a density of 19.25 g/cm3. To put this in perspective, water has a density of only 1 g/cm3. This means that tungsten is about 19 times denser than water!

Here is an easy way to visualize just how dense tungsten is compared to water:

  • Imagine a cube of tungsten that is 1 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm. It would have a mass of 19.25 grams.
  • Now imagine a cube of water with the same dimensions of 1 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm. It would only have a mass of 1 gram.

The tungsten cube, although the exact same size as the water cube, would be 19 times heavier! This really highlights the incredible density of tungsten compared to common materials like water.

To provide another example - a piece of tungsten the size of a sugar cube would weigh around 150 grams. In comparison, a sugar cube itself only weighs about 2 grams. The high density of tungsten allows it to pack a lot of weight into a small amount of volume.

This is why tungsten is often used in applications where high density and strength are required, such as counterweights, radiation shielding, and ballast in yachts or aircraft. The density of tungsten gives it uniquely useful properties compared to less dense materials.

Tungsten has a density of 19.25 g/cm3, which makes it about 19 times denser than water at 1 g/cm3. This significant difference highlights why tungsten is considered one of the densest metals on Earth.

Is Tungsten the Densest Metal?

Tungsten is renowned for its extremely high density, which gives rise to the misconception that it must be the densest metal on Earth. However, while tungsten is undoubtedly one of the densest metals known, it is not actually the most dense.

The metal with the highest density is osmium, with a density of 22.6 g/cm3. This is slightly denser than tungsten's 19.3 g/cm3. Another metal that surpasses tungsten is iridium, which has a density of 22.4 g/cm3.

Examples of Metals Denser Than Tungsten

Here are some examples of metals denser than tungsten:

  • Osmium - 22.6 g/cm3
  • Iridium - 22.4 g/cm3
  • Platinum - 21.4 g/cm3
  • Rhenium - 21.2 g/cm3
  • Neptunium - 20.2 g/cm3

These ultra-dense metals are quite rare and expensive compared to tungsten. They tend to have specialized applications in industries like aerospace, electronics, and jewelry where high density is required.

Practical Applications of Dense Metals

The extreme density of metals like osmium and iridium lends them useful properties for various applications:

  • Counterweights in aircraft control systems
  • Ballast in yacht keels
  • Balance weights in high-end watches
  • Electrical contacts and filaments
  • Alloying agents to increase density

While tungsten may not be the absolute densest, its more reasonable cost and availability means it finds wider use in heavy applications like radiation shielding, ballast, counterweights, and military ordnance.

Is Tungsten Very Heavy?

With a density nearly twice that of lead, tungsten is indeed a very heavy metal. To put its weight into perspective, a 1 cm3 cube of tungsten weighs approximately 19 grams. In comparison, a 1 cm3 cube of iron only weighs around 7 grams. This means a piece of tungsten of the same volume would be almost 3 times as heavy as iron.

The high density and weight of tungsten become especially apparent when comparing it to more common materials:

  • A tungsten block of 1 cubic inch weighs over 2 pounds, whereas an aluminum block of the same size only weighs around 0.25 pounds.
  • 1 cubic foot of tungsten weighs over 1200 pounds. In contrast, 1 cubic foot of concrete weighs around 150 pounds.

This considerable weight difference is directly related to tungsten's exceptionally high density. The more dense a material, the heavier it will be at a given volume. Tungsten's density is so high that it allows the metal to take up very little space for its weight.

The heavy weight of tungsten has important practical implications. It makes tungsten useful for applications requiring high mass in a compact size, like counterweights, vibration dampening, and radiation shielding. However, working with tungsten can also present challenges due to its sheer heaviness, necessitating special handling equipment and safety precautions.

Is Tungsten More Dense Than Gold?

When it comes to density, tungsten and gold are two of the densest metals on Earth. But which one is denser? The answer lies in their precise density measurements.

The density of tungsten is 19.25 g/cm3. Tungsten is an extremely hard, durable metal thanks to its packed atomic structure. This high density makes tungsten an ideal material for applications requiring small size and weight, like cell phones and bullets.

Gold, on the other hand, has a density of 19.32 g/cm3, just slightly higher than that of tungsten. The difference is minimal - less than 1%. Gold owes its density to its very high atomic weight. This density makes gold useful for compacting value, like in coins and jewelry.

So while tungsten has a very high density, gold is slightly denser by a small margin. But the two are so close in density that tungsten is sometimes used as a lower-cost alternative to gold in jewelry and other applications. However, the color and luster of tungsten differs from gold, so substitutions are not always seamless.

In summary, gold edges out tungsten in density by a tiny fraction. But both metals are remarkably dense and useful for their combination of small size, durability, and weight. When it comes to density, tungsten and gold stand shoulder-to-shoulder at the top of the periodic table.

Density of Tungsten vs. Gold


The density of tungsten is 19.3 g/cm3, while the density of gold is 19.32 g/cm3. So gold is actually slightly denser than tungsten, but only by a miniscule 0.02 g/cm3. This makes their densities remarkably close.

Significance of the Density Differences

Despite gold being fractionally denser, tungsten is still considered a heavy metal while gold is not. This is because metals with densities above 10 g/cm3 are generally classified as heavy metals. So the tiny difference in densities does not change the categorization of the two metals.

In most practical applications, the small density difference between tungsten and gold is negligible. Both can serve as substitutes for each other in uses where high density is required, like counterweights.

Density of Tungsten vs. Steel

Tungsten has a significantly higher density than steel. The density of tungsten is 19.3 g/cm3, while the density of steel ranges from about 7.75 to 8 g/cm3 depending on the alloy. This means tungsten is approximately 2.5 times denser than steel.

In terms of weight, a 1 inch cube of tungsten would weigh around 0.7 pounds, while a 1 inch cube of steel would weigh around 0.28 pounds. So for the same volume, tungsten is over twice as heavy as steel.

The high density and weight of tungsten make it suitable for several applications where steel would not be a good choice:

  • Tungsten is often used for ballast in yachts and aircraft because its density allows it to provide more weight in a smaller volume compared to steel.
  • Tungsten alloys are used to make high-density counterweights for things like helicopter rotors and precision machinery to improve stability.
  • Tungsten's density makes it effective for radiation shielding and vibration damping in medical, scientific, and military applications.

However, steel is preferable to tungsten in applications where toughness, ductility, and cost are more important factors. Tungsten is brittle and difficult to machine compared to steel. Steel is also significantly cheaper than tungsten.

How Much Heavier is Tungsten Than Steel?

Tungsten is significantly heavier and denser than steel. With a density of 19.3 g/cm3, tungsten is over twice as dense as stainless steel, which has a density of about 8 g/cm3. This large difference in density translates to a substantial difference in weight between the two metals.

To quantify the weight difference, let's compare 1 cubic inch of tungsten to 1 cubic inch of steel. One cubic inch of tungsten weighs 0.697 lbs. In contrast, 1 cubic inch of steel weighs just 0.284 lbs. Therefore, the same volume of tungsten weighs over 2 times more than steel.

This considerable weight difference has important implications in various applications:

  • In counterweights, tungsten allows for smaller and more compact designs due to its high density and weight.
  • Tungsten alloys are used in applications like golf clubs and darts to concentrate weight in the head or tip.
  • The heavy weight of tungsten relative to steel can be a disadvantage in applications where minimizing weight is critical, like auto parts.
  • Tungsten's weight requires more robust designs and support structures compared to lighter steel alternatives.

Overall, tungsten's exceptionally high density results in a much greater weight than steel for the same volume. This unique property of tungsten can be leveraged where dense or heavy materials are required. However, the high weight also necessitates more careful engineering considerations when tungsten is being implemented.

Density of Tungsten vs. Lead

Tungsten has a higher density than lead, which allows it to be used in many applications where high density is required. The density of tungsten is 19.3 g/cm3, while the density of lead is only 11.3 g/cm3. This means that tungsten is about 70% denser than lead.

The high density of tungsten makes it ideal for applications like counterweights, ballast, radiation shielding, and vibration damping. The aerospace industry often uses tungsten counterweights instead of lead because a smaller tungsten weight can provide the same inertial mass. Tungsten's density also allows it to be an effective replacement for lead in radiation shielding applications, while occupying less volume.

However, lead does have some advantages over tungsten in specific applications. Lead is softer and more malleable, making it easier to form into complex shapes. Lead also has a lower melting point of 327°C compared to tungsten's melting point of 3422°C. This allows lead to be cast into detailed forms at lower temperatures. Lead's lower cost can also make it more economical for applications where ultra-high density is not critical.

Why is Tungsten So Dense?

Tungsten is known for being an extremely dense metal, but what exactly makes it so heavy? The high density of tungsten can be attributed to its unique atomic structure and bonding properties.

Atomic Number of Tungsten

With an atomic number of 74, tungsten has a very high number of protons and electrons. The more protons and electrons an atom has, the more mass it contains. This contributes to the density of tungsten.

Compact Electron Configuration

In addition to having many protons and electrons, tungsten also has a very compact electron configuration. Its electrons fill up energy levels very tightly, allowing the atoms to pack together closely. This efficient configuration adds to tungsten's density.

Strong Metallic Bonds

The atoms in tungsten are held together by strong metallic bonds. These bonds allow the atoms to bond very tightly together into the solid metal structure. The strength of these metallic bonds enables extremely close packing of the atoms, increasing density.

Body-Centered Cubic Crystal Structure

Tungsten forms a body-centered cubic crystal structure in its solid form. This means that tungsten atoms are arranged in a very efficient packing pattern that maximizes density. Atoms fit together perfectly in this compact structure.

Tungsten is one of the densest metals due to its high atomic number, efficient electron configuration, strong metallic bonds, and cubic crystal structure. These atomic properties allow tungsten atoms to pack together very closely, giving tungsten its extremely high density.

Density of Tungsten in Different Units

Tungsten has a density of 19.3 g/cm3, which is extremely high compared to most metals. To better understand how dense tungsten is, it helps to convert this value into other common units of density measurement:

  • In kg/m3, the density of tungsten is 19,300 kg/m3
  • In lb/ft3, the density of tungsten is 1,201 lb/ft3
  • In lb/in3, the density of tungsten is 0.697 lb/in3

Being able to convert between density units is useful for engineers and designers working with tungsten in different industries. For example:

Aerospace Applications

In aircraft and aerospace applications, kg/m3 is commonly used to describe the density of materials. Tungsten's density of 19,300 kg/m3 is extremely high for a metal, making it useful for radiation shielding and counterweights.

Manufacturing & Construction

In manufacturing and construction, lb/ft3 and lb/in3 are more common units. With a density of 1,201 lb/ft3 and 0.697 lb/in3, tungsten allows for high weight in a small volume, which can be leveraged in making heavy machinery or radiation shielding.


For jewelry, the density of tungsten carbide in lb/in3 is important. With a density of 0.575 lb/in3, tungsten carbide allows for jewelry with a high perceived value and scratch resistance, while still being comfortable to wear.

Understanding the density of tungsten in various units provides engineers and designers the flexibility to apply this unique metal in many different industries and applications.