In the metal industry, tensile strength is one of the most important properties that fabricators and engineers look for when trying to design products for high-stress applications.
While many metals can withstand these applications, what pure metal has the highest tensile strength? With an ultimate tensile strength of 980 MPa, tungsten has the highest tensile strength of any other metal. 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
While tensile strength refers to a metal’s ability to resist tension or stress (pulling force) before it breaks, compressive strength refers to a metal’s ability to resist compression (pushing force). Below, we detail the tensile strength and compressive strength of tungsten.
Understanding the Tensile Strength of Tungsten
A material’s tensile strength (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 main reason for its high tensile strength is the arrangement of its atoms and molecules. There exists a strong metallic element between its atoms by the 5d electrons. Thus, it requires a tremendous amount of energy to break the bond, and as a result, tungsten has the highest melting point of 6,192°F. Because of this, tungsten is used in microwaves and in traditional incandescent lighting.
Due to its high tensile strength, tungsten metal alloy is extensively used to produce hard metals based on tungsten carbides (tungsten steel). The ability to withstand high stress makes it an ideal alloy for the aerospace and automobile industries. Tungsten comes with machining challenges; however, it can be used with effective strategies 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 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
Unlike tensile strength, the compressive strength of a material refers to its ability to withstand uniaxial compression force until it breaks. This factor is highly essential to choosing materials for design structures.
The higher the load a material can bear, the stronger it can resist plastic deformation. This ability of the material to withstand load stress is expressed as the yield strength of a material. The yield strength of tungsten and its alloys varies between 300 to 1000 MPa. A tungsten-carbon alloy (tungsten carbide) displays yield strength close to that of a diamond. That’s why tungsten carbide is mainly used for cutting and mining tools.
What Metal Has the Highest Tensile Strength Next to Tungsten?
While tungsten is the strongest metal in terms of tensile strength, other metal alloys, detailed in the table below, can also often be used in its place:
|Ultimate Tensile Strength (MPa)
|Yield Strength (MPa)
|Properties and Characteristics
|Titanium (CP 4)
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.