Composition of Tungsten Carbide

Tungsten Carbide Composition and Structure

Tungsten Carbide Composition Ratio

Tungsten carbide is composed of tungsten metal and carbon, typically in a ratio of 90% tungsten to 10% carbon by weight. This composition ratio provides an optimal balance of hardness, toughness, and wear resistance.

Higher tungsten content increases hardness and wear resistance, while higher carbon content improves toughness. Common tungsten carbide grades have tungsten content ranging from 85-97% with the balance being carbon. Grades with tungsten content below 85% are considered cemented carbides rather than tungsten carbide.

For extreme wear resistance applications like cutting tools and drill bits, tungsten carbide with 94-97% tungsten is used. This provides exceptional hardness and abrasion resistance. For applications requiring toughness like mining and construction tools, lower tungsten content around 88-92% is preferred.

The cobalt binder composition also influences properties. Most grades have 3-12% cobalt as a binder. Higher cobalt increases toughness but decreases hardness and heat resistance. The optimal binder composition depends on the application.

Choosing the right tungsten-to-carbon and binder ratio is critical for optimizing tungsten carbide performance. The composition must align with the demands of the operating environment and application requirements.

Examples of Composition Ratios

  • WC-6%Co: 94% tungsten, 6% cobalt binder - Used for cutting tools and drill bits
  • WC-10%Co: 90% tungsten, 10% cobalt binder - General purpose grade
  • WC-12%Co: 88% tungsten, 12% cobalt binder - Tough grade for mining tools

In summary, tungsten carbide composition ratios significantly influence hardness, toughness and wear properties. Careful selection of the tungsten-to-carbon and binder ratio is critical for optimal performance in different applications.

Tungsten Carbide Composition Percentage

The composition of tungsten carbide is typically measured in terms of the percentage of tungsten carbide (WC) versus the percentage of metallic binder. The most common binder used is cobalt, though nickel and iron are also sometimes used.

The percentage of tungsten carbide has a significant impact on the properties and performance of tungsten carbide. Higher tungsten carbide percentages generally increase hardness, wear resistance, strength, and modulus of elasticity. However, they also increase brittleness and decrease fracture toughness.

Ideal Composition Percentages

The ideal composition percentage depends greatly on the application. Some common composition percentages include:

  • 90% WC/10% Co: Used for general machining of steels and cast irons where high toughness is needed.
  • 94% WC/6% Co: Provides good wear resistance for non-ferrous metals, plastics, and wood machining.
  • 97% WC/3% Co: Maximizes wear resistance but is very brittle. Used for high speed machining of aluminum and copper.

Effects of Composition Variations

Even small variations in composition percentages can significantly affect tungsten carbide performance:

  • Lower WC decreases hardness and wear resistance.
  • Higher WC increases brittleness and decreases strength and toughness.
  • Too little binder leads to poor toughness and strength.
  • Too much binder decreases hardness and wear resistance.

Therefore, the composition percentage must be carefully selected and controlled for the specific application and requirements.

As an example, the percentage of chemicals for nickel bonded tungsten carbide can range from 94% WC/ 6% NiCR to 90% WC / 10% NiCR. A 94% WC / 6% NiCR composition is popular for downhole tools where hardness and wear resistance are critical.

Understanding the effects of composition percentage is crucial for optimizing tungsten carbide performance for different applications.

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

Tungsten Carbide Elemental Composition

Tungsten carbide is composed primarily of tungsten and carbon. Tungsten is a refractory metal with the highest melting point of all metals, while carbon provides hardness and wear resistance. The unique combination of these two elements gives tungsten carbide its extreme hardness, strength, and high temperature resistance.

The typical composition of tungsten carbide contains 80-97% tungsten by weight, with the remainder being carbon. The ratio of tungsten to carbon has a significant impact on the properties and performance of tungsten carbide. Higher tungsten content increases hardness and strength, while more carbon improves fracture toughness. An optimal balance is needed based on the application.

Role of Tungsten

Tungsten is the primary element that gives tungsten carbide its hardness, strength, and refractory properties. Its high melting point allows tungsten carbide to withstand high temperatures without losing its hardness or shape. The tungsten atoms form a crystalline lattice that provides rigidity and resistance to deformation.

Role of Carbon

Carbon fills the spaces in the tungsten lattice, making the structure more compact. This increases hardness and wear resistance. Carbon also improves the toughness of tungsten carbide by inhibiting crack propagation. However, too much carbon can lead to lower hardness and strength.

Ideal Composition

For most applications, a composition of 90-97% tungsten balanced by carbon provides the best combination of hardness, strength, and toughness. Cutting tools often use a composition around 94% tungsten. Mining and construction tools may use slightly lower tungsten content around 88-92% for improved toughness.

Effects of Variations

Higher tungsten content increases hardness and heat resistance, but decreases toughness. Lower tungsten leads to reduced hardness and strength, but improved toughness. The composition must be tailored to the specific needs of the application.

Precise control of the tungsten-carbon ratio during manufacturing is critical to achieve consistent and reliable performance of tungsten carbide products.

Tungsten Carbide Structure

Tungsten carbide has a unique crystal structure that is central to understanding its exceptional properties. It has two primary crystalline forms - hexagonal and cubic.

Hexagonal Tungsten Carbide

The hexagonal structure is the most common and stable form of tungsten carbide at room temperature. It has a wurtzite-type hexagonal lattice with tungsten atoms occupying half the interstitial sites between carbon atoms. This creates strong covalent carbide bonds that give tungsten carbide its extreme hardness and high modulus of elasticity.

Cubic Tungsten Carbide

At temperatures above 2500°C, tungsten carbide transforms into a cubic structure with a rocksalt-type lattice. In this form, tungsten and carbon atoms occupy alternating corners of the cubic lattice. The cubic structure is less hard but more ductile than the hexagonal form.

Effects on Properties

The crystal structure has significant effects on the properties of tungsten carbide:

  • The hexagonal form provides extreme hardness, strength and stiffness due to its covalent carbide bonds.
  • The cubic structure exhibits increased toughness and fracture resistance compared to the brittle hexagonal form.
  • Phase transformations between hexagonal and cubic structures occur during heating/cooling cycles, affecting the carbide's performance and service life.

Understanding these structural characteristics is key for optimizing tungsten carbide's unique combination of hardness, strength and toughness for applications ranging from cutting tools to wear-resistant parts.

In summary, the crystal structure of tungsten carbide directly impacts its mechanical, thermal and chemical properties. Careful control of the carbide structure through composition, processing and heat treatment is critical to achieve the desired performance in demanding applications.

Cemented Carbide Composition

Cemented carbide, also known as hard-metal, is a composite material composed of carbides of various elements cemented together by a binder metal. The most common cemented carbide is tungsten carbide (WC) cemented together by cobalt (Co) to form WC-Co.

Tungsten carbide provides the hardness and wear resistance properties, while cobalt acts as the matrix to hold the WC particles together. The relative amounts of WC and Co determine the properties and applications of the cemented carbide.

Some common compositions include:

  • WC-6%Co: Used for cutting tools and dies. The low cobalt content provides high hardness and wear resistance.
  • WC-10%Co: General purpose grades for machining and mining tools. Good combination of hardness and toughness.
  • WC-15%Co: Tougher grades used for mining tools and die inserts. The higher cobalt content improves shock resistance.

Other carbides like titanium carbide (TiC), tantalum carbide (TaC) and niobium carbide (NbC) may also be added to tailor specific properties. For example, TiC helps maintain strength at high temperatures.

The WC grain size and distribution also affects properties. Ultrafine grain cemented carbides exhibit improved hardness and strength. The cobalt content must be balanced to retain good fracture toughness.

Proper composition selection is critical for optimizing cemented carbide performance in different applications like metal cutting, drilling, forming and mining. Factors like required hardness, toughness, thermal properties and resistance to wear must be considered.

Tungsten Carbide Chemical Composition

Tungsten carbide is composed of tungsten and carbon atoms bonded together in a chemical compound with the formula WC. It is produced through a chemical reaction where tungsten metal powder and carbon are heated together at high temperatures in a process called carburization.

Chemical Reactions in Tungsten Carbide Formation

The main chemical reaction involved in the production of tungsten carbide is: W + C → WC Here, tungsten metal reacts with carbon to form tungsten carbide. This reaction occurs at temperatures above 1000°C in a controlled atmosphere. The carburization process allows the carbon atoms to diffuse into the tungsten metal lattice and form the very hard WC compound.

Significance of Chemical Composition

The chemical composition of tungsten carbide has a significant influence on its properties. The high hardness and wear resistance of WC is attributed to the strong covalent bonding between tungsten and carbon atoms. The W-C bonds provide strength and rigidity to the crystal structure. The stoichiometric composition with equal tungsten and carbon contents produces optimal properties. Deviations from the ideal 1:1 W:C ratio can negatively impact hardness and performance. Excess carbon leads to formation of brittle phases like W2C, while tungsten-rich compositions are less hard. Careful control of the carburization process is needed to achieve the desired chemical composition.

Effects of Compositional Variations

Variations in the relative amounts of tungsten and carbon affect the microstructure and properties of tungsten carbide. Common compositional variations include: - Tungsten-rich WC which contains excess tungsten. This is often less hard but more ductile. - Carbon-rich WC containing free graphite. This can reduce strength and hardness. - Sub-stoichiometric WC with carbon vacancies. This provides high hardness but is prone to cracking. - Eta phase WC with excess carbon defects. This leads to lower hardness and strength. The composition must be tailored to the specific application to optimize the performance through the right balance of hardness, toughness and other mechanical properties. **END OF SECTION**

Tungsten Carbide Alloy Composition

Tungsten carbide is often alloyed with other metals to enhance certain properties for specific applications. The most common alloying elements are cobalt, tantalum, titanium, niobium, and vanadium.

Role of Alloying Elements

Cobalt is the most widely used alloying element in tungsten carbide. It acts as a binder that holds the tungsten carbide particles together and provides fracture toughness. Cobalt content typically ranges from 3% to 30%. Higher cobalt increases toughness but decreases hardness and wear resistance.

Tantalum, titanium, niobium, and vanadium are grain growth inhibitors. They help refine the grain size of tungsten carbide which improves its hardness and strength. These elements are often added in small quantities up to 0.5%.

Common Alloy Compositions

Some common tungsten carbide alloys include:

  • WC-6%Co: General purpose grade with good wear resistance.
  • WC-10%Co: Tough grade for mining and construction tools.
  • WC-3%Co: Hard and wear resistant grade.
  • WC-TiC-TaC-Co: Fine grained micrograin carbide.

Selecting the Right Alloy Composition

The intended application guides the choice of alloy composition. Hardness and wear resistance are prioritized for cutting tools and dies. Mining tools require higher cobalt for fracture toughness. Fine grain sizes are needed for smooth finishes. Cost is also a factor as cobalt is expensive. The alloy composition can be optimized to balance properties and cost.

Proper testing and evaluation is recommended to select the right alloy grade for the application. Manufacturers provide different alloy grades tailored for specific uses.

What is Tungsten Carbide Made Of?

Tungsten carbide is composed primarily of tungsten metal and carbon. It is produced by mixing tungsten powder and carbon powder in a specific ratio and heating the mixture to high temperatures between 1400-1600°C in a process called sintering. This fuses the tungsten and carbon together to form tungsten carbide particles.


Tungsten, also known as wolfram, is a hard, brittle, silver-gray metal with the highest melting point of all metals. It has a high density and strength, making it ideal for applications requiring hardness, wear resistance, and durability.


Carbon is added to tungsten in order to improve its toughness and strength. The carbon atoms fill the gaps between the tungsten atoms, creating a very hard and durable compound.

Manufacturing Process

The manufacturing process for tungsten carbide involves several steps:

  • Tungsten ore is crushed and milled into a fine powder.
  • The tungsten powder is blended with carbon powder in the desired ratio, typically 6-25% carbon.
  • The powder mixture is pressed into a mold or die to form the desired shape.
  • The pressed compact is sintered at high temperatures up to 1600°C in a controlled atmosphere.
  • The sintered tungsten carbide is then finished by grinding, polishing, or other secondary processes.

Forms and Shapes

Tungsten carbide can be produced in various forms and shapes depending on the application:

  • Powder - Used to make sintered parts or coatings
  • Solid carbide rods - For machining and tooling applications
  • Tungsten carbide inserts - For cutting tools and drill bits
  • Tungsten carbide tiles - For wear-resistant surfaces
  • Tungsten carbide nozzles - For high wear resistance
  • Applications

    Some common applications of tungsten carbide include: - Cutting tools - drill bits, milling cutters, turning inserts - Dies and punches - for metal forming and stamping - Mining and construction tools - chisels, gouges, drill rods - Wear parts - seals, nozzles, sleeves, bearings - Jewelry - rings, watches, bracelets

    Tungsten carbide is highly versatile due to its extreme hardness, strength, and wear resistance properties derived from its unique composition and structure.

What Metals are in Tungsten Carbide?

Tungsten carbide is composed primarily of tungsten metal and carbon. The unique properties of tungsten carbide come from the combination of these two elements.

Tungsten is a very hard, dense metal with a high melting point. It provides the hardness, strength, and wear resistance in tungsten carbide. Carbon acts as a cementing agent to bind the tungsten particles together. The addition of carbon allows tungsten carbide to be formed into different shapes and sizes.

In addition to tungsten and carbon, other metals are sometimes added to tungsten carbide in smaller amounts. These include:

- Cobalt - Added in amounts up to 15%. Cobalt improves the toughness and shock resistance of tungsten carbide. - Titanium - Added up to 5%. Titanium increases hardness and wear resistance. - Tantalum - Added up to 5%. Tantalum improves corrosion resistance.

The specific metals added and their percentages can be varied depending on the desired properties and application of the tungsten carbide. For example, a higher cobalt content will produce a tougher grade of tungsten carbide more suitable for mining tools. Lower cobalt grades are harder and more wear resistant for use in cutting tools.

The composition of the metals in tungsten carbide has a significant influence on its performance. Precise control of the metal composition allows tungsten carbide grades to be tailored for specific uses and operating conditions.

Even small changes in metal composition can noticeably alter tungsten carbide's hardness, strength, fracture toughness and other properties. Careful selection of the metal composition is critical to optimize tungsten carbide's performance for any given application.

Tungsten Carbide Cobalt Chemical Composition

Tungsten carbide is composed of tungsten metal and carbon. The chemical formula for tungsten carbide is WC, indicating an equal number of tungsten and carbon atoms. Tungsten provides hardness while carbon enables the formation of hard carbide compounds. To make tungsten carbide usable in applications, a metal binder like cobalt is added.

Cobalt is a common binder metal added to tungsten carbide. It serves several important functions:

- Acts as a cementing agent to hold the WC particles together during sintering - Provides toughness and shock resistance to the brittle WC particles - Enables the fabrication of complex shapes through powder metallurgy techniques

The amount of cobalt added determines the properties of the resulting cemented carbide. Typical compositions range from 3-30% cobalt. Lower cobalt content (3-10%) results in greater hardness and wear resistance but lower toughness. Higher cobalt content (10-30%) provides increased toughness and strength at the expense of hardness.

The ideal cobalt composition depends on the application. For example, cutting tools require high hardness so lower cobalt around 6% is used. Mining drills need greater toughness, so higher cobalt around 10-15% is preferred. The cobalt composition can be tailored to optimize properties for specific needs.

Altering the cobalt composition significantly impacts the behavior of tungsten carbide. Too little cobalt leads to inadequate strength, while too much cobalt reduces hardness. The optimal amount of cobalt binds the tungsten carbide particles properly without compromising key properties.

Cobalt is a key ingredient in tungsten carbide metallurgy. It enables the fabrication of a versatile material whose properties can be tuned through careful control of cobalt composition.

What are the ingredients in carbide?

Carbide, a term that often rings a bell in the ears of chemists, metallurgists, and anyone with a keen interest in the world of compounds, is a fascinating subject. But what exactly goes into the making of this intriguing compound? Let's dive into the world of carbides and uncover the elements that give it its unique properties.

At its core, carbide is a binary compound formed from carbon and another chemical element. This 'other' element can be a metal or a semi-metal, depending on the type of carbide. For instance, calcium carbide is a result of the union between carbon and calcium, while tungsten carbide is born from the combination of carbon and tungsten.

The magic of carbide lies in its versatility. Depending on the second element it pairs with, carbide can take on different forms and properties. There are three general classes of carbides: ionic carbides, interstitial carbides, and covalent carbides. Each class has its own unique characteristics and applications.

Ionic carbides, also known as salt-like carbides, are formed when carbon combines with highly electropositive atoms such as alkali, alkali earth, and group-III metals. Interstitial carbides, on the other hand, occur when carbon atoms fit into the interstices (small spaces) in a close-packed metal lattice. This typically happens when the metal atom radius is greater than approximately 135 pm. Lastly, covalent carbides are present in silicon and boron carbides, where the carbon and the other element share electrons, forming a strong bond.

Examples of different types of carbides include boron carbide, silicon carbide, and tungsten carbide. Boron carbide, for instance, boasts higher hardness than alumina or silicon carbide. Its oxidation product provides a protective skin at high temperatures, making it a valuable asset in various industrial applications.

Tungsten carbide, often simply referred to as carbide in the context of machine tooling, is another popular type. When carbon and tungsten come together, they create an alloy that is resistant to heat, scratches, pitting, and rust. This robustness makes tungsten carbide a preferred choice for manufacturing mill products, surgical tools, and more.

In essence, the ingredients in carbide are carbon and another chemical element, which can be a metal or a semi-metal. The specific properties and applications of the resulting carbide depend on the identity of this second element. From the hardness of boron carbide to the heat resistance of tungsten carbide, the world of carbides is as diverse as it is fascinating. So, the next time you come across a drill bit or a surgical tool, remember the incredible chemistry that went into its making!

Related Articles