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What's The Difference Between Tungsten And Tungsten Carbide?

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What's The Difference Between Tungsten And Tungsten Carbide?

 Most people will confuse tungsten and tungsten carbide, as tungsten carbide is the most widely understood form of tungsten available. However, there are some niche use cases for its pure form, and this section will contrast tungsten and tungsten carbide to illustrate how they differ. Below, in Table 1, is shown several mechanical properties of each material, and their comparison should give readers a better idea as to when to implement one material over the other. Note that tungsten carbide (WC) is used for this comparison, but more alloys exist.

Comparison of material properties between tungsten and tungsten carbide

Material properties


Tungsten Carbide






Modulus of Elasticity

400 GPa

58000 ksi

669-696 GPa

97000-100000 ksi

Shear Modulus

156 GPa

22600 ksi

260-298 GPa

37700-43220 ksi

Tensile Yield strength

350 MPa

50800 psi

140 MPa

20300 psi

Thermal Conductivity

163.3 W/m-K

1133 BTU-in/hr-ft²-°F

28-88 W/m-K

194-610 BTU-in/hr-ft²-°F

Hardness (Rockwell A)



While pure tungsten does not have the toughness of its alloys, tungsten carbide does not have the unique physical properties of its pure form, making these materials equally useful. Understanding what kind of specifications are needed for your project is necessary before choosing between tungsten and tungsten carbide, as they are both specialized for different applications. As always, a conversation with your supplier will provide you with the best knowledge on which to use, or if there is a less expensive option worth consideration.

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