From multi-storey buildings and bridges to aeroplanes and electronic devices, we rely on metals for most things that we take for granted in daily life.
Alongside an array of beneficial properties, metals are typically chosen for their strength and resistance to wear – the more challenging the application, the stronger the metal needs to be.
Of course, there are varying types of strength to consider, including yield strength (deformation resistance under stress), tensile strength (resistance to tension or stretching), and compressive strength (resistance to compaction).
Every metal has a unique arrangement of atoms that determines its strength, hardness, and other properties, which are considered altogether to determine each metal’s usefulness and value compared to other similar metals.
Keep reading to learn more about some of the strongest metals in the world, including one of the hardest and most heat resistant – tungsten metal.
Tantalum is a rare transition metal with a lustrous blue-grey colour, a high melting point, and high corrosion resistance. It may not be as mechanically strong as other metals on this list, but its refractory properties still make tantalum a strong metal.
Its yield strength is approximately 100–200 MPa, tensile strength around 170–1400 MPa, impact strength 1200–1400 MPa, and compressive strength from 135–1060 MPa.
Tantalum is frequently used in electronic capacitors, chemical processing equipment, medical implants, aerospace components, and more.
Though not as well-known as some of the others, osmium is one of the densest naturally occurring metals, appearing bluish-white and being hard yet brittle. It is extremely tough and also has a high melting point in the refractory range.
Less is known about osmium’s limitations, but its tensile strength ranges from 2000–7000 MPa, and its compressive strength is between 1000–3600 MPa.
Osmium is found in a variety of strong components, such as fountain pen tips, electrical circuit contacts, needles, and instrument pivots.
Greyish-gold and lustrous, zirconium is a ductile transition metal derived from the mineral zircon. It has a low density and relatively high melting point with high resistance to corrosion, helping to maintain its integrity even in hot and corrosive environments.
Its yield strength is around 230 MPa, tensile strength about 330 MPa, and compressive strength approximately 3000 MPa, though its alloys are much stronger.
Zirconium has a wide range of uses, including ceramics, surgical implants, laboratory equipment, aerospace parts, nuclear reactors, and radiation shields.
As one of the rarest elements, lutetium is not only among the densest and heaviest, but also one of the most expensive. This robust silvery-white metal is extracted from lutetium trichloride, exhibiting high resistance to heat and corrosion.
While it has relatively low mechanical strength, with 60 MPa yield strength and 140 MPa tensile strength, lutetium is better known for its unique magnetic properties.
Being the most magnetic stable element, lutetium is especially useful in magnetic imaging machines and scanners for research, medical, or industrial applications.
Vanadium is another silver-grey transition metal that isn’t as recognised as others, despite its similar notable characteristics. These include malleability, ductility, a high melting point, and corrosion resistance, which help it to retain its form.
It has a yield strength of around 776 MPa, tensile strength of approximately 600–800 MPa, and compressive strength ranging between 125–530 MPa.
Vanadium is valuable in many engineering applications, as it is frequently used to create steel alloys for use in high-speed tools and aircraft engines.
Being one of the most abundant metals on the planet, iron has been used throughout human civilisation for thousands of years. Its inherent strength, ductility, and malleability make this element ideal for use in construction, particularly in alloys.
In its pure form, iron has a yield strength of about 50 MPa, tensile strength of around 300–500 MPa, and compressive strength between 110–220 MPa.
Iron is widely used in steel alloys in everything from tools and weapons to infrastructure and automobiles. It can also be found in electronics, medical treatments, and jewellery.
Gadolinium is a silvery rare earth metal, which occurs naturally in an oxidised state and must be processed to extract its pure form. Being very ductile and malleable, it is softer than many of the metals on this list with higher mechanical strengths.
The yield strength of gadolinium is about 635 MPa, while its tensile strength is around 170–430 MPa, and its compressive strength is between 160–300 MPa.
It is less frequently used because of its toxicity, but gadolinium is useful for magnetic resonance imaging, optical devices, and nuclear energy applications.
Titanium is among the most abundant metals in the planet’s crust, being a lustrous silver metal that’s stronger than steel but not as dense. In fact, titanium has the highest strength to density ratio of all metallic elements, making it lightweight yet tough.
Titanium’s yield strength is around 250 MPa, its tensile strength ranges from 240–360 MPa, and its compressive strength starts from 130–170 MPa.
Its low density makes titanium ideal for alloys used in aerospace, military engineering, ships and submarines, and the biomedical field, amongst many other uses.
While it isn’t one of the core refractory metals, shiny grey chromium is one of the hardest metals. It has a high melting point and increased corrosion resistance, amongst the highest of all the metallic elements in the world, though it is also brittle.
Its yield strength averages around 130 MPa, while its tensile strength ranges from 370–760 MPa and its compressive strength from 185–430 MPa.
The primary use of chromium is creating the alloy stainless steel, which strengthens steel parts for various industries. It’s also used in chrome plating and magnetic tape.
Grey-white tungsten is one of the hardest and most dense metallic elements found on Earth, with the highest melting point of all metals. Despite being brittle, its hardness and extreme heat resistance make tungsten a contender for the toughest metal in the world.
Tungsten has a yield strength of 750 MPa and a tensile strength of around 980–1510 MPa. These can be made even stronger by alloying tungsten – for example, tungsten carbide is almost as tough as diamond, the hardest and strongest material in the world.
Its wide range of industrial applications include cutting tools and drills, electrical contacts, sports equipment, bullets and missiles, radiation shielding, and more.
As the most refractory metal, tungsten is arguably the strongest metal – and it can be found in various forms, from wires and rods to bars and plates. So, if you’re searching for the strongest metal fabricated parts, look no further than tungsten.