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What’s the Strongest Metal?

In the metal industry, tensile strength is a crucial property that fabricators and engineers consider when designing products for high-stress applications.

While many metals can endure these conditions, which pure metal has the highest tensile strength? With an ultimate tensile strength of 980 MPa,tungsten boasts the highest tensile strength and is considered one of the strongest metals on earth.

However, it’s important to understand how its tensile strength compares to its compressive strength to differentiate tungsten’s application areas.

In this article, we compare tungsten’s tensile strength and compressive strength and discuss other metals with high tensile strength properties that can be used in place of tungsten.

Tungsten’s Tensile Strength vs. Compressive Strength

Tensile strength refers to a metal’s ability to resist tension (pulling force) before it breaks, while compressive strength refers to its ability to resist compression (pushing force). Below, we detail both the tensile and compressive strengths of tungsten.

Understanding the Tensile Strength of Tungsten

A material’s pulling resistance (also referred to as ultimate tensile strength) refers to its ability to withstand load or stress before it breaks or fails permanently. In this regard, tungsten has the highest tensile strength among all other metals.

The primary reason for its high tensile strength is the arrangement of its atoms and molecules. Strong metallic bonds, facilitated by 5d electrons, exist between its atoms.

Thus, breaking these bonds requires a tremendous amount of energy, resulting in tungsten having the highest melting point of 6,192°F. Because of this, tungsten is used in microwaves and in traditional incandescent lighting.

Due to its exceptional tensile strength, tungsten metal alloy is extensively used to produce hard metals like tungsten carbide (tungsten steel). It is often compared to carbon steel in terms of tensile strength and versatility.

The ability to withstand high stress makes tungsten steel an ideal alloy for aerospace and military engineering.

Although it’s considered one of the strongest metal on earth, tungsten still comes with machining challenges.

Despite these challenges, tungsten can be effectively used to make highly specialized devices, such as high-temperature furnace parts, high-voltage breakers, and high-power semiconductor rectifying devices.

However, it doesn’t matter what natural metal has the highest tensile strength unless it scores equally well on compressive strength for high-strength applications of any type.

Understanding the Compressive Strength of Tungsten

Compressive strength, unlike tensile strength, refers to a material’s ability to withstand uniaxial compression force until it breaks. This factor is crucial when choosing materials for structural design.

The higher the load a material can bear, the stronger it can resist plastic or permanent deformation. A material’s ability to withstand load stress is expressed as its yield strength. The yield strength of tungsten and its alloys varies between 300 to 1000 MPa.

A tungsten-carbon alloy (tungsten carbide) has a Mohs hardness of 9, which is close to that of a diamond (10). That’s why tungsten carbide is mainly used for cutting and mining tools.

What are Some of the Strongest Metals Next to Tungsten?

Alloys Tensile Strength (MPa) Yield Strength (MPa) Properties and Characteristics Applications
Stainless Steel  860 520
  • High corrosion resistance
  • Retains high strength, even at high temperatures
  • Low maintenance
  • Least expensive
  • Medical equipments
  • Aircraft and aerospace
  • Architectures
Chromium 413 362
  • World’s hardest metal as per the Mohs hardness scale
  • An ideal alloying element to increase strength of ferro alloys
  • High resistance to oxidation
  • Manufacturing stainless steel
  • Chrome plating to offer mirror finish
  • Molds for the firing of bricks
Titanium (CP 4) 550 483
  • Twice as strong as aluminum
  • High melting point of about 2,750°F
  • Naturally resistant to corrosion
  • Excellent biocompatibility
  • Jewelry
  • Medical implants
  • Marine and aerospace structures
Vanadium 800 776
  • High melting point of about 3,470°F
  • Malleable, ductile, high rust resistance
  • With titanium, achieves high strength-to-weight ratio
  • Ferrovanadium
  • Cutting tools
  • Body armours
  • Dental implants
  • Jet engines
Inconel (IN718) 965 550
  • Exceptional strength at cryogenic conditions
  • Intrinsic ability to form protective oxide layer against corrosion
  • Easy to weld and machine
  • Low density and high performance characteristics similar to nickel based alloys
  • 3D printing 
  • Gas turbine engines
  • Turbojet engine parts
  • Metal die casting

Until 1920, tungsten was known as an ideal steel alloying element and was used as a filament in incandescent lamps. In 1935, the first tungsten heavy metal alloys were produced, and the next 40 years marked its exponential industrial demand.

Today, despite the COVID-19 crisis, the tungsten market is booming and is expected to experience an exponential rise in the future.

However, because of the current supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19, it’s imperative to maintain a surplus inventory of tungsten or to find recycled materials to continue production regardless of the market situation in the future.

A Reliable Local Supplier of Tungsten, High-Temp Alloys, Carbon Steel, and More

Industrial Metal Service specializes in supplying some of the strongest metals in the world such as tungsten, titanium, aluminum, stainless steel, and carbon steel to machine shops, fabricators, and manufacturers in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationwide.

We sell new metals and the strongest metals sourced straight from U.S. mills, and we also offer verified metal remnants, which can provide considerable savings to those who need to maintain tight budgets.

Published by IMS Team

Industrial Metal Service has decades of experience and over 1.1 billion pounds of metal sold and recycled. Our founder, Jeff, has spent his life in the industry and prides himself on offering fair, efficient, trustworthy, knowledgeable, outstanding customer service. We offer metal salesmetal recycling pickup service, and other associated services, such as precise metal sawing, machinery teardown, and warehouse cleanupGive us a call and we’ll get it done.