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Refractory Metals: An A to Z of Applications

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Is the most commonly used refractory metal

These elements can be combined with other materials and with each other to create a wide range of high-performance refractory metal compounds and alloys, which are the basis of several industries.

This article studies the main applications of refractory metals and the scope of their compounds and alloys.

The defense and aerospace industries require materials with excellent thermal and mechanical durability. For defense and aerospace applications, refractory metals are essential materials because they provide the basis for maintaining strength at temperatures up to 2200°C.

Niobium is particularly suitable for aerospace due to its relatively low density (comparable to nickel).

Molybdenum, tungsten, niobium and tantalum have a wide range of applications in aerospace and can be used for forging dies, thrusters, shields and counterweights.

While the aerospace and defense industries continue to use refractory metals extensively, new opportunities are currently emerging due to additive manufacturing and the production of new materials with extremely high temperature capabilities.

Because of its extremely high inertness, tantalum is mainly used in the chemical industry. Ejectors, reaction vessels and heat exchangers all use tantalum to inhibit the corrosive effects of nitric acid, sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid, as well as liquid metals and organic chemicals.

Generally, refractory metals have strong electrical conductivity. This means they can be used to make very wear-resistant and durable electrical components. For example, long-lived contacts can be made of refractory metals alloyed with copper, gold or silver.

Combining the thermal expansion coefficient and high thermal conductivity that can match with popular semiconductor materials, molybdenum, W-Cu and Mo-Cu can be applied to thermal control electronics.   

The low diffusibility and good conductivity of harmful elements make refractory metals useful as sputtering targets for back contacts, vias and thin film diffusion barriers in flat panel displays and semiconductor devices.

Tantalum powder, wires and sheets are commonly used as the housing, anode and cathode of high-performance capacitors. The corrosion-resistant and durable oxide layer formed on the Ta surface enables it to produce very high capacitance values.

The high temperature resistance and durability of refractory metals make it an ideal solution for industrial parts, which may be subjected to extremely high thermal and/or mechanical stress, such as furnace ships, glass melting electrodes, crucibles, shields, Tubes, sintering discs, rods, sheets and nozzles.

In particular, tungsten is widely used to manufacture highly durable industrial and mechanical parts. For these applications, tungsten is either combined with carbon in the form of tungsten carbide used in pure metal form, or combined with nickel, iron nickel or copper to produce the so-called heavy metal tungsten.

Molybdenum is also used for mechanical applications, which is mainly used as an alloying component in steel for structural applications. Molybdenum-based alloys like TZM (titanium-zirconium-molybdenum-molybdenum) are mainly used for high-temperature applications with high mechanical loads and hot metal forming molds.

Refractory metals are often used in medical equipment. For example, tantalum is used in dental and medical equipment because it is durable and does not affect body tissues.

Molybdenum is commonly used in medical scanning tools,

And tube. For radiation shielding, tungsten is the material of choice because of its high density of 19.3 g/cm

, Which means it has a higher radiation absorption rate than lead.

MRI scanners also use refractory metals in the form of superconducting magnets, mainly tantalum and niobium.

Applications in the nuclear industry usually use niobium, molybdenum and tungsten. Tungsten heavy metal is mainly used for radiation shielding. It uses the heat resistance and high density of tungsten to reduce X-rays and gamma rays.

Niobium-zirconium alloys are used as structural components in nuclear reactors, where their resistance to liquid metal and low neutron absorption cross-section are beneficial.

Molybdenum and niobium can also be used in high temperature radiation resistant equipment in high temperature reactors.

Molybdenum, tungsten, niobium and tantalum alloys have attracted attention due to their potential in the next generation of high-temperature nuclear fission reactors because of their ability to maintain high mechanical strength at extremely high temperatures.

Studies have shown that these materials can be used as structural components in fourth-generation fission reactors, and tungsten and its alloys are being thoroughly studied for high heat flux applications in fusion reactors.

Niobium and tantalum are commonly used in low-temperature superconductor applications, such as

Used in medical imaging and other analytical and experimental equipment, such as mass spectrometry, particle accelerator and NMR.

Due to the electronic properties and durability of tantalum, it is particularly suitable for sheet-shaped superconductors. It provides a durable and stable diffusion barrier between the tin and copper layers, thereby preventing direct contact between tin and copper.

Tantalum and niobium are also used in the rods to make superconducting wires.

With decades of metallurgical expertise, HC Starck Solutions provides a full range of refractory metal manufactured parts tailored for all applications. The company provides complex components, machined products and products made of refractory metals.

HC Starck Solutions also provides prefabricated powders and additive manufacturing powders such as molybdenum, tungsten, niobium and tantalum, as well as each compound and alloy (for example, MHC, TZM and other alloys on request).

This information has been taken, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by HC Starck Solutions.

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