W for Wolfram aka Tungsten

Tungsten, also known as wolfram, is a chemical element with symbol W and atomic number 74. A hard, rare metal under standard conditions when uncombined, tungsten is found naturally on Earth only in chemical compounds. It was identified as a new element in 1781, and first isolated as a metal in 1783.

Tungsten was discovered by Juan José and Fausto Elhuyar, Spanish chemists and brothers, in 1783 in samples of the mineral wolframite ((Fe, Mn)WO4).

In World War II, tungsten played a significant role in background political dealings. Portugal, as the main European source of the element, was put under pressure from both sides, because of its deposits of wolframite ore at Panasqueira. Tungsten’s resistance to high temperatures and its strengthening of alloys made it an important raw material for the arms industry.

Tungsten’s many alloys have numerous applications, most notably in incandescent light bulb filaments, X-ray tubes. William D Coolidge, a researcher at General Electric’s new research laboratory in 1905, he conducted experiments that led to the use of tungsten as filaments in light bulbs. He developed ‘ductile tungsten’, which could be more easily drawn into filaments, by purifying tungsten oxide

In 1913 he invented the Coolidge tube, an X-ray tube with an improved cathode for use in X-ray machines that allowed for more intense visualization of deep-seated anatomy and tumors. The Coolidge tube, which also utilized a tungsten filament, was a major development in the then-nascent medical specialty of radiology, and its basic design is still in use.

Tungsten is alloyed with steel to form tough metals that are stable at high temperatures. Tungsten-steel alloys are used to make such things as high speed cutting tools and rocket engine nozzles.

Tungsten carbide (WC) is an extremely hard tungsten compound. It is used in the tips of drill bits, high speed cutting tools and in mining machinery.

Hemerdon Mine – near Plympton, England,  hosts one of the largest tungsten and tin deposits in the world. Currently China is the leading producer of Tungsten in the world.

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