The key difference between lead and tungsten is that lead has a comparatively less density and can be easily cut, whereas tungsten is denser than lead and requires a diamond blade to cut.
Lead and tungsten are important chemical elements having many important applications. Lead is a chemical element having atomic number 82 and the chemical symbol Pb, while tungsten is a chemical element having the symbol W and atomic number 74.
What is Lead?
Lead is a chemical element having atomic number 82 and the chemical symbol Pb. It occurs as a metallic chemical element. It can be categorized as a heavy metal and is denser than most of the common materials we know. Moreover, lead can be found as a soft and malleable metal having a low melting point relatively. It is easy to freshly cut lead metal, and there is a characteristic blue hint along with the silvery grey metallic appearance. Furthermore, lead can tarnish upon exposure to air. It gives the metal surface a dull grey appearance. More importantly, this metal has the highest atomic number of any stable element.
Lead is a relatively unreactive post-transition metal. We can illustrate the weak metallic character of lead using its amphoteric nature. E.g. lead and lead oxides react with acids and bases and tend to form covalent bonds. We can find compounds of lead often having a +2 oxidation state of lead rather than the +4 oxidation state (+4 is the most common oxidation for group 14 chemical elements).
When considering the bulk properties of lead, it has a high density, malleability, ductility, and high resistance to corrosion due to passivation. Lead has a close-packed face-centered cubic structure and a high atomic weight, which results in a density that is greater than the density of most common metals such as iron, copper, and zinc. When compared to most metals, lead has a very low melting point, and its boiling point is also the lowest among group 14 elements.
Lead tends to form a protective layer upon exposure to air. The most common constituent of this layer is lead(II) carbonate. There can also be sulfate and chloride components of lead. This layer makes the lead metal surface effectively chemically inert to air. Furthermore, fluorine gas can react with lead at room temperature to form lead(II) fluoride. There is a similar reaction with chlorine gas as well, but it requires heating. Apart from that, lead metal is resistant to sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid but reacts with HCl and HNO3 acid. Organic acids such as acetic acid can dissolve lead in the presence of oxygen. Similarly, concentrated alkali acids can dissolve lead to form plumbites.
What is Tungsten?
Tungsten is a group 6 chemical element and a rare metal that occurs naturally on Earth, exclusively in combination with other elements in chemical compounds. It has the symbol W and atomic number 74. This metal appears as a greyish white, lustrous metal. Furthermore, the most important ores of tungsten include scheelite and wolframite.
The free tungsten metal has remarkable robustness. It has the highest melting point of all the known chemical elements. This metal also has the highest known boiling point of any chemical element. The density of this metal is far more comparable with that of gold and uranium chemical elements. This density is much higher than that of lead.
Tungsten is intrinsically brittle and hard, which makes it difficult to work with this metal. Further, pure metal is more ductile, and we can easily cut it with a hard steel hacksaw. Moreover, this is the only metal known to occur in biomolecules when considering other transition metals in the 3rd transition series. We can find this metal in a few species of bacteria and archaea.
There are many important applications of tungsten, including the production of hard materials such as tungsten carbide and the production of alloys and steels. This metal has a high ductile-brittle transition temperature, which makes it manufactured through sophisticated methods such as powder metallurgy, spark plasma sintering, chemical vapor deposition, hot isostatic pressing, etc.
What is the Difference Between Lead and Tungsten?
Lead is a chemical element having atomic number 82 and the chemical symbol Pb, while tungsten is a chemical element having the symbol W and atomic number 74. The key difference between lead and tungsten is that lead has a comparatively less density and can easily be freshly cut, whereas tungsten is denser than lead and it requires a diamond blade to cut metal.
The below infographic presents the differences between lead and tungsten in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Lead vs Tungsten
Lead and tungsten are important chemical elements that occur as metals. The key difference between lead and tungsten is that lead has a comparatively less density and can be easily cut, whereas tungsten is denser than lead and requires a diamond blade to cut.
1. “Two pieces of lead, 11 grams, 1 x 1.5 cm each” By Hi-Res Images of Chemical Elements – (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Tungsten rod with oxidized surface, 80 grams” By Hi-Res Images of Chemical Elements – (CC BY 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia