Increasingly the Wolfmet team are receiving enquiries from clients who are looking for a lead replacement. This is partly because lead is extremely toxic and enhanced regulations have made its use problematic. But it is also because tungsten alloys are now widely recognised as a suitable lead replacement for many different applications.
Tungsten Alloys versus Lead
Both tungsten alloys and lead are known for their useful properties such as high density, radiation shielding and resistance to corrosion. However, when it comes to tungsten alloys versus lead there are many factors that make tungsten alloys a far better alternative.
Health and Safety
If we start with safety, tungsten alloys would be the clear winner. Although lead is a naturally occurring metal it is by no means good for you, it is extremely toxic to humans. In contrast, Wolfmet tungsten alloys are non-toxic and pose no known risk to human life. Because lead is dangerous there are strict guidelines governing its use and exposure to employees and the general public. In some cases the use of lead is no longer permitted.
When it comes to cleaning, tungsten alloys also receive a gold star. Lead is much softer than tungsten and therefore it easily dents and scratches. This makes lead much harder to sanitise and keep clean than a tungsten alloy component. This is particularly important in the medical sector where cleanliness is everything.
Tungsten is the densest, naturally occurring metal which is readily available and economically workable. Wolfmet tungsten alloys consists of 90-97% tungsten depending on the grade and are approximately 60% denser than lead. This higher density is beneficial in applications that require a large weight to fit in a small space for example balance weights on control surfaces in aeroplanes.
Tungsten alloys have excellent radiation attenuation properties. This makes tungsten alloys the ideal choice as a lead replacement in Nuclear Research and Nuclear Medicine. Substituting tungsten alloys in place of lead allows the reduction of the thickness of the shields, while still effectively blocking harmful X-ray and gamma radiation.
When to Replace Lead with Tungsten Alloys
There are many applications in which tungsten alloys would be a suitable lead replacement. These applications include Radiation Shielding – Nuclear Medicine, Research and Industrial, race car ballast and aircraft balance weights. A good example is the use of tungsten alloy ballast in aerospace and motorsport. Given that the weight requirements here necessitate exact measurements and that limited space is available, tungsten alloys are the obvious choice.