Tungsten polymers are being introduced as an effective lead alternative in a variety of applications for which lead has traditionally been used. This push for alternatives is due to the threat that lead poses to the environment and to human health. Recent studies show that the heavy usage and poor disposal of lead products for decades has caused irreversible effects to the environment and as such lead is now ranked as the second most hazardous substance by the United States government. Lead is a heavy metal and exposure to it can lead to lead poisoning whereby the day to day operations of human organs are inhibited. Despite these health risks, lead is very useful in industries today because of the properties it possesses, such as its malleability and low melting point making it easy to mold and melt, in addition to its low cost which makes it economical for use for industrial purposes.
With the outstanding properties that it has, lead has been used in military, medical and nuclear industries, to name a few. But the main factor that contributes to its widespread use today is its low cost. Lead is very inexpensive because it is an abundant mineral that is relatively easy to harvest and process. But given newfound understanding of the health risk associated with lead and the increased regulatory attention paid to it, there is now a growing demandfor a composite material with similar properties to lead but that is environmentally friendly. A material is said to be a composite if it is made of two or more materials that have different physical and chemical properties.
Tungsten polymers have become a notablealternative to lead in numerous applications because they can match the physical properties of lead, like high density, while being environmentally benign. This polymer composite is made up of tungsten powder and a plastic base resin, which are compounded together into a thermoplastic material at 11 g/cc, the same density as lead. The base resin systems are made up of; polysulfones (PSU), co-polymides, polyamides (PA), polymethylpentenes (PMP), polyurethanes (TPU),acryloynitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polyethylenes (PE) and polyetheretherketones (PEEK).
Properties of tungsten polymer include:
• A density of 11.0 g/cc
• Improved radiation shielding performance
• Improved flexibility properties
• Easily malleable
• No toxic constituents
• Resistance to corrosion by weather elements
• Resistant to corrosion by chemical and organic solvent resistance
• Insoluble in water
• No harmful effects when handling or processing
With these properties, this polymer has found many applications in fields and industries, including:
• In X-ray devices in manufacturing industries and medical x-ray machines
• In nuclear and medical industries, it is used as radiation shielding
• It is also used in weight and balance applications as a counterweight for applications like motors, ballasts, and more.
• Used as a sound proofing material in aviation headphones
• Acts as a damper to reduce shock due to vibration in the automotive industry