Thoriated Tungsten Wire

Tungsten is a key refractory material used in a variety of applications, ranging from candescencet lamp to high-tech semiconductor devices. As a kind of historical metal, tungsten metal is available in the form of powders, wires, plates, blocks, machined parts and 3D parts. With powder metallurgy technology, tungsten products’ properties are controllable by high-purity refining.

thoriated tungsten wire image thoriated tungsten wire image

Tungsten wires containing thoria (thorium oxide: ThO2) particles are suitable for various electron tubes, vibration-resistant bulb filaments and TIG welding electrodes. Alloyed thorium enhances the emission of thermions by lowering the work function barriers. In addition, thoriated tungsten wire is difficult to deform as the mechanical properties are improved because thoria particles have a dispersion strengthening effect.

Tungsten electrodes are used when arc welding with the tungsten Inert gas (TIG) process or when plasma welding. The addition of 1%-4% thorium oxide offers the benefits of facilitating arc starting, increasing arc stability, improving current-carrying capacity, reducing the risk of weld contamination and increasing electrode life to the electrode. Thorium oxide (thoria) has been used for many years having been found effective in terms of long life and thermal efficiency.

Thorium (Th) is slightly radioactive with a long half life and emits mainly alpha (α) particles, but occasionally some beta (β) and gamma (γ) radiation is emitted. Alpha particles cannot penetrate skin or even paper. However, they are harmful if released inside the digestive tract, or inside the lungs, where they act as a carcinogen.

Thorium nitrate is, therefore, a low level radioactive material which may give rise to both a small external radiation hazard and an internal hazard from ingestion or inhalation. As the additions are usually of order 1%-4%, the external hazard estimated for workers for a whole year is a very small fraction of the maximum permissible radiation dose and it is concluded that the external radiation hazard is likely to be negligible.

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