Tungsten cemented carbide is approximately three times stiffer than steel, with a Young's modulus of approximately 550 GPa, and is much denser than steel or titanium. It is comparable with corundum or sapphire in hardness and can only be polished and finished with abrasives of superior hardness such as cubic boron nitride and diamond among others, in the form of powder, wheels, and compounds.
Tungsten cemented carbide is the preferred material for parts that must withstand all forms of wear (including sliding abrasion, erosion, corrosion/wear and metal-to-metal galling) and exhibit a high degree of toughness. It exhibits high compressive strength, resists deflection, and retains its hardness values at high temperatures, a physical property especially useful in metal-cutting applications.
There are two well characterized compounds of tungsten and carbon, WC and tungsten semicarbide, W2C. Both compounds may be present in coatings and the proportions can depend on the coating method. At high temperatures WC decomposes to tungsten and carbon and this can occur during high-temperature thermal spray, e.g., in high velocity oxygen fuel and high energy plasma methods. Oxidation of WC starts at 500–600 °C. It is resistant to acids and is only attacked by hydrofluoric acid/nitric acid mixtures above room temperature. It reacts with fluorine gas at room temperature and chlorine above 400 °C and is unreactive to dry H2 up to its melting point. WC dissolves readily in diluted hydrogen peroxide.
Tungsten carbide has a high melting point at 2,870 °C, a boiling point of 6,000 °C when under a pressure equivalent to 760mm of Hg, a thermal conductivity of 84.02 W·m−1·K−1, and a coefficient of thermal expansion of 5.8 µm·m−1·K−1.
Tungsten carbide is extremely hard, ranking ~9 on Mohs scale, and with a Vickers number of 1700–2400. It has a Young's modulus of approximately 550 GPa, a bulk modulus of 439 GPa, and a shear modulus of 270 GPa. It has a very high yield stress at 6800 MPa, but a comparatively low ultimate tensile strength of just 35 MPa.
The speed of a longitudinal wave through a thin rod of tungsten cemented carbide is 6220 m/s.
With a low electrical resistivity of, tungsten cemented carbide's resistivity is comparable with that of some metals. WC is readily wetted by both molten nickel and cobalt. Investigation of the phase diagram of the W-C-Co system shows that WC and Co form a pseudo binary eutectic. The phase diagram also shows that there are so-called η-carbides with composition (W,Co)6C that can be formed and the fact that these phases are brittle is the reason why control of the carbon content in WC-Co hard metals is important.
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