Everything You Need to Know About Tungsten and Molybedenum

Some of the most important elements used in manufacturing are tungsten and molybdenum. These two materials are used extensively in custom vacuum furnace products, as alloys, and to make crucibles for manufacturing, among many other important uses.


tungsten comes from a Swedish word that means “heavy stone,” though its chemical symbol of “W” on the periodic table of elements comes from an older Germanic name for this element: wolfram. The element was originally discovered in 1783, but did not get used in manufacturing for another 150 years. In 1783, two Spanish chemists were looking at the mineral wolframite when they discovered tungsten. In its pure form, tungsten is light gray and is very soft. It’s so soft that it can be drawn into a thin wire or extruded into all kinds of shapes; yet it has a tensile strength of 1,510 megapascals. As it is contaminated with other materials, tungsten becomes more and more brittle. One of its most valuable properties in manufacturing is its extremely high melting point. It has the highest melting point of all metals at 6,170°F. Tungsten is more than twice as dense as the strongest steel, but it only occurs naturally in combination with one or more minerals.

Because of its high melting point, tungsten has been used for years as the filament in incandescent light bulbs and then later in fluorescent light bulbs and television tubes. It is also used in the production of x-rays, and especially now as the heating element and electric furnaces. It also has many aerospace applications because of its ability to withstand high temperatures. Tungsten is a popular alloy to add to steek when making cutting tools and the nozzles of rocket engines.


This element comes from the Greek word meaning “lead.” Molybdenum was discovered by a Swedish chemist in 1778 and has been used in many manufacturing applications ever since. It was originally confused with a lead compound, which is the reason for its name, and it was not until 1781 that a different chemist isolated pure molybdenum. Molybdenum is often obtained as a byproduct of mining processes that also produces copper and tungsten.

This element is valued for its very high melting point as often used to make the electrodes in certain furnaces. Molybdenum is also valuable for making missile and aircraft parts, as an alloy for steel, and in the nuclear power industry. When this element is combined with steel it can produce a steel alloy capable of withstanding 300,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. Glass melting electrodes made with molybdenum have to resist intense chemical degradation and corrosion and minimize the discoloring of the glass, which is why they are made to a 99.95% purity level.

Whether manufacturing a tungsten crucible evaporation boat or a molybdenum crucible, these two elements are among the most valuable when it comes to modern manufacturing. We have reason to thank those chemists of the early ages of the Industrial Revolution for their important pioneering work in discovering some of the most essential elements on the modern periodic table.