Refractory Metals and Alloys

Refractory metals and alloys are well known for their extraordinary resistance to heat and wear. Key requirement to withstand high temperatures is a high melting point and stable mechanical properties (e.g. high hardness) even at high temperatures.

The most common refractory metals include five elements: niobium and molybdenum of the fifth period and tantalum, tungsten, and rhenium of the sixth period. They all share some properties, including a melting point above 2000 °C and high hardness at room temperature.

Poor low-temperature fabricability and extreme oxidability at high temperatures are main disadvantages of most refractory metals. Application of these metals requires a protective atmosphere or coating.

The strength of refractory metals at high temperatures, in combination with their hardness, makes them ideal for cutting and drilling tools. Refractory metal-based alloys are used in virtually all major industries, including electronics, aerospace, automotive, chemicals, mining, nuclear technology and metal processing. Today usage is not limited to lamp filaments, electron tube grids and heating elements.

  • Tungsten is an extremely dense metal and it has the highest melting point of all metals, at 3,410 °C. Moreover, tungsten is an excellent alloying agent. The major use of tungsten is in cemented carbide metal cutting tools and wear-resistant materials.Produces stable carbides and refines grain size so as to increase hardness, particularly at high temperatures. Tungsten is used extensively in high-speed tool steels and has been proposed as a substitute for molybdenum in reduced-activation ferritic steels for nuclear applications. The addition of about 10% of tungsten and molybdenum in total maximises efficiently the hardness and toughness of high speed steels and maintains those properties at the high temperatures generated when cutting metals. Tungsten and molybdenum  are  interchangeable  at  an  atomic  level  and  both  promote  resistance  to  tempering which   gives improved   tool   cutting   performance   at   higher   temperatures.
  • Molybdenum increases hardenability and strength, particularly at high temperatures due to the high melting point of molybdenum. Molybdenum is unique in the extent to which it increases the high-temperature tensile and creep strengths of steel. It retards the transformation of austenite to pearlite far more than it does the transformation of austenite to bainite; thus, bainite may be produced by continuous cooling of molybdenum-containing steels. Most common molybdenum-based alloy is is the Titanium-Zirconium-Molybdenum alloy TZM, composed of 0.5% titanium and 0.08% of zirconium (with molybdenum being the rest). It is typically manufactured by powder metallurgy or arc-casting processes. The alloy exhibits a higher creep resistance and strength at high temperatures, making service temperatures of above 1060 °C possible for the material.
References:
Materials Science:

U.S. Department of Energy, Material Science. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1 and 2. January 1993.
U.S. Department of Energy, Material Science. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 2 and 2. January 1993.
William D. Callister, David G. Rethwisch. Materials Science and Engineering: An Introduction 9th Edition, Wiley; 9 edition (December 4, 2013), ISBN-13: 978-1118324578.
Eberhart, Mark (2003). Why Things Break: Understanding the World by the Way It Comes Apart. Harmony. ISBN 978-1-4000-4760-4.
Gaskell, David R. (1995). Introduction to the Thermodynamics of Materials (4th ed.). Taylor and Francis Publishing. ISBN 978-1-56032-992-3.
González-Viñas, W. & Mancini, H.L. (2004). An Introduction to Materials Science. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-07097-1.
Ashby, Michael; Hugh Shercliff; David Cebon (2007). Materials: engineering, science, processing and design (1st ed.). Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 978-0-7506-8391-3.
J. R. Lamarsh, A. J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3d ed., Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN: 0-201-82498-1.

See above:
Alloys