The key difference between tungsten carbide and boron carbide is that boron carbide is harder and stiffer than tungsten carbide.
Both tungsten carbide and boron carbide are industrially important materials that are very hard and stiff than steel. Therefore, they are useful in heavy machinery and in applications where we apply a strong impact on materials.
What is Tungsten Carbide?
Tungsten carbide is a chemical compound having the chemical formula WC. Specifically, we can call it a carbide compound. It contains equal parts of tungsten and carbon atoms. This substance appears as a fine grey powder that can be pressed and formed into shapes through a process known as sintering. Tungsten carbide is useful in industrial machinery, cutting tools, abrasives, armour-piercing shells, and jewellery.
More importantly, this material is about twice stiff as steel. It has a high value for Young’s modulus, which can range from 530 to 700 GPa. Besides, the density of this material is twice the density of steel. That is nearly midway between the density of lead and gold. Moreover, we can compare its hardness with corundum due to its high hardness. Tungsten carbide can undergo polishing and finishing only with abrasives of superior hardness, e.g. cubic boron nitride and diamond powder.
We can manufacture tungsten carbide from the reaction between tungsten metal and carbon at a very high temperature. Alternatively, we can do this at a lower temperature fluid bed process which involves the reaction of tungsten metal or tungsten oxide with a carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide mixture and hydrogen gas.
There are two forms of tungsten carbide as tungsten carbide and tungsten semi-carbide, depending on the amount of carbide present per tungsten equivalent. Both these compounds can be found in coatings, and the proportions of tungsten and carbide depend on the coating method. In addition, this material decomposes at very high temperatures, forming tungsten and carbon through the thermal spray process.
What is Boron Carbide?
Boron carbide is a chemical compound having the chemical formula B4C. It is an extremely hard boron-carbon ceramic material. It is also a covalent compound. There are many important applications of this substance, including use in tank armour, bulletproof vests, engine sabotage powders, and many other industrial applications. It appears as a dark grey or black powder that is odourless. It is insoluble in water. The crystal structure is rhombohedral.
Boron carbide is a robust material with extremely high hardness. It also has a high cross-section for the absorption of neutrons. This material has high stability to ionizing radiation and most chemical substances. Moreover, it shows semiconductor properties as well.
We can manufacture boron carbide from the reduction of boron trioxide in the presence of either carbon or magnesium at an electric arc furnace. Here, if we use carbon, the reaction takes place at a temperature above the melting point of the boron carbide compound. If we use magnesium, the reaction takes place in a graphite crucible, and we can remove the byproducts by treating them with acid.
What is the Difference Between Tungsten Carbide and Boron Carbide?
Tungsten carbide is a chemical compound having the chemical formula WC and it contains equal parts of tungsten and carbon atoms. Boron carbide is an extremely hard boron-carbon ceramic material having the chemical formula B4C. The key difference between tungsten carbide and boron carbide is that boron carbide is harder and stiffer than tungsten carbide.
The below infographic presents the difference between tungsten carbide and boron carbide in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Tungsten Carbide vs Boron Carbide
Both tungsten carbide and boron carbide are industrially important materials that are very hard and stiff than steel. The key difference between tungsten carbide and boron carbide is that boron carbide is harder and stiffer than tungsten carbide.
1. “Tungsten Carbide.” An Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.
1. “Tungsten carbide” By Splarka at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons. (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Boron carbide” By Preslav – Own work (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia