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What Are the Strongest and Hardest Metals Known to Man?

Updated on November 18, 2015

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Which Metal Has the Most Tensile Strength or Hardness?

Human technology progresses more and more every day. Modern industrial processes require materials capable of withstanding immense pressures while retaining their shape and integrity. For this, engineers generally turn to metals due to their wide availability and malleability.

But what is the strongest metal, and just how strong is it?

The answer to this question depends on how the question itself is framed. Does the practicality of using a metal in any significant amount count? Does it have to be a natural metal, or are alloys considered? What's the difference between strength and hardness? This article attempts to examine the multiple answers to this question, covering each metal with a claim to the title, and arguing its case.

Note: For the sake of clarity, the 'strength' considered is tensile strength, which is how much force an object can withstand before warping, unless otherwise stated.

Tungsten
Tungsten | Source

The Strongest Natural Metal: Tungsten

As far as pure metals go, tungsten has the highest tensile strength, with an ultimate strength of 1510 megapascals. Tungsten also has the honor of having the highest melting point of any unalloyed metal and the second highest melting point in the whole periodic table—only carbon can withstand hotter temperatures. Tungsten is very dense and brittle, making it difficult to work with in all but its purest forms. Tungsten is commonly used in electrical and military applications, and you may find tungsten filaments in light bulbs and tungsten coating that adds a real punch to projectiles. It is also a common component in steel and other alloys, where even a small amount can significantly increase the strength of the alloy.

A megapascal (MPa) is a metric pressure unit, mostly used in hydraulic systems that gauge high pressure ratings, that equals 1,000,000 newtons per square meter (which is a pascal). 1 MPa is equal to 10 Bar.

Steel
Steel | Source

The Strongest Alloy: Steel

Alloys are a constantly changing field, as researchers attempt to create ever-stronger combinations of elements. Generally, the strongest alloy is steel mixed with a few other elements. Vanadium steel alloys seem to be particularly promising, with several companies releasing variants with ultimate strengths of up to 5205 MPa. The steel that holds this distinction is called Micro-Melt® 10 Tough Treated Tool Steel.

Steel itself is an alloy of iron and carbon, although other elements can also be used. Steel is a highly versatile alloy, meaning a form of it can be made to meet almost any specifications. Steel has been in use for millenniums but became a more exact science during the Renaissance (1300-1700).

An alloy is a metal made by combining two or more metallic elements. This is usually done to achieve greater strength and/or resistance to corrosion.

Chromium
Chromium

The Hardest Metal: Chromium

The 'hardness' of a mineral is generally determined by the Mohs scale and is defined as the scratch resistance of a mineral. Diamonds are the hardest minerals known to man, but what is the hardest metal? That honor goes to chromium, a metal perhaps best known as the key ingredient in stainless steel. Chromium is also commonly used in chrome plating, which acts as a form of protection against corrosion and physical damage. Chromium has been recognized for its unique traits since the Qin Dynasty in China, when weapons and armor were coated with the metal and survive to this day, uncorroded and in perfect shape.

Titanium
Titanium | Source

The Most Useful Strong Metal: Titanium

With an ultimate strength of about 434 MPa, titanium is the perfect blend of strength and practicality. Its low density makes it perfect for industrial uses requiring a strong metal with a high melting point. Indeed, titanium has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any natural metal known to man. Pure titanium is stronger than standard steel, while being less than half the weight, and can be made into even stronger alloys. Because it is also fairly common, it's no wonder that titanium is used for a multitude of purposes. When it comes to manufacturing, the only strong natural metal worth caring about is titanium.

These metals are the backbone of modern industry, providing the support that keeps our daily lives running smoothly. Whether in the tip of a pen, on the fuselage of an airplane, or in the beams of a tall building, we rely on metals to protect us as we seek to progress ever further. We should consider ourselves lucky that, no matter what our needs, there is something in nature to cover them.

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    • leroy64 profile image

      Brian L. Powell 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff)

      Interesting. (That is also how I voted.)

    • Gofygure profile image
      Author

      Gofygure 5 years ago from Kutztown, PA

      Thanks! I think this kind of stuff is interesting, too. :) Guess it's my engineering major poking out.

    • leroy64 profile image

      Brian L. Powell 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff)

      In my case, it's an architecture degree

    • R. J. Lefebvre 5 years ago

      Gofy,

      Amazing! I feel like I can never learn enough of what our earth is made of, I can't help thinking theres more to be discovered. I was aware of some your assesesments, however I learned more about all of the metals with your hub. Thanks.

      Ronnie

    • Gofygure profile image
      Author

      Gofygure 5 years ago from Kutztown, PA

      Great! Yes, there's always more to be learned about this planet, and how it functions the way it does. Considering the sheer distance to other possibly-habitable planets, I think it's very important that we keep learning about this one!

    • crd 4 years ago

      useful and interesting content

    • buddy 3 years ago

      this information is all wong

    • rikalto 2 years ago

      What about Tungsten Boride?

    • cool dude 2 years ago

      what uranium or iridium are the strongest

    • imagesjewelers profile image

      Kelly Klose 2 years ago from Elkhart,IN

      We love metals!

    • Debbie 17 months ago

      In reading the comments, I see trolls are every where. Even in the comment section of a very informative article.

      Thanks for the information. I learned of a metal I didn't know was considered on the strongest scale.

    • Brandin 17 months ago

      this website is incorrect cause tungsten is rock in swedish and tungsten is

      not a pure metal its 85% tungsten carbine 2% titanium 5& nickle 3% steal

      etc. so titanium is the strongest metal by far. and is 100% pure

    • Jim Davis 15 months ago

      Well, now I'm a bit confused,!!

    • Bruh 15 months ago

      I agree with Brandin they use titanium in freakin navy warships

      *facepalm*

    • Brdntz88 15 months ago

      How about everyone does their own research instead of taking random sites for 100 percent correct info. It may take 30 min or more. Oh no.

    • Huh 14 months ago

      I really don't get y u are fighting all about this

    • Tomi 14 months ago

      Titanium iz d bst metal eva useful 2 man nd his handwork.i wish i culd b as useful as titanium.Add Your Comment...

    • praivn 14 months ago

      Chromium is the hardest metal. There are some parameters like Mohs Hardness, Brinell Hardness, Vickers Hardness which helps measuring hardness. Here at hardness properties of Chromium you will get all these things other than that you can this metals on the basis of different properties Modern Periodic Table. I hope this is helpful

    • Fushicho 14 months ago

    • no_name 11 months ago

      Magnesium alloy is pretty strong and light.(from what i have heard)

    • bwudda1009 11 months ago

      its all wrong, hardest metal is..............vibranium :D

    • Rishi 10 months ago

      In my opinion Iron is the most useful metal ever.

    • Mr Johnson 10 months ago

      There is one element Harder. But it is a good thing they didn't mention it....I blush every time!

    • mc88 9 months ago

      Geez ppl lighten up..

    • Steven 8 months ago

      You are all wrong! The strongest metal is Adamantium!

    • chemical 5 months ago

      very funny comments..

      eg - take a look at this

      Brandin 11 months ago

      this website is incorrect cause tungsten is rock in swedish and tungsten is

      not a pure metal its 85% tungsten carbine 2% titanium 5& nickle 3% steal

      etc. so titanium is the strongest metal by far. and is 100% pure

      (tungsten is

      not a pure metal its 85% tungsten carbine 2% titanium 5& nickle 3% steal) ---- tungsten carbine

      its all about W not WCTiNiFe mixed up.

    • Still 4 months ago

      H huuh

    • Stuart 4 months ago

      I'm sorry but this wrong. The hardest man made metal known to man is boron nitride and because it's extremely hard to make its applications are very specialised. I'm a machinist and work with very rare and very expensive alloys/metals every day for use in nuclear reactors, submarines, ships, and all aspects of modern industry and Boron nitride is common knowledge amongst us in the trade and yes they are super steels but they don't even come close in hardness to the above mentioned tungsten as we use Tungsten carbide tools to turn and cut super steel all the time so I'm sorry as far as metallurgy goes this has it all wrong !.

    • kaido45 4 months ago

      its not that easy to dicline the hardest alloy known to man because it is not steel at all well steel is comonly known to be extremly ressistens to pressure and heat but thats and i say it again the hardest alloy its tantalum hafnium cardbid its even harder than a diamond and extremly heat ressistens about 4000 degrees

    • Bigback 3 months ago

      Im a metalurgical chemist for the Federal Alloys and Steels program and Tritorbinite is currently the hardest steel known to man only myself and one other person have ever seen it. I machine it daily for the Nuclear Reactor Core Infrastructure branch of the government. Class 5000 def con 10 clearance.Bow to me.

    • Meaty 3 months ago

      I try to find a metal's to make things like wepon's a hinden assin blad + Amor like that

    • chris 3 months ago

      can we use them to make a shield?

    • jam 2 months ago

      your wrong it is titanium

    • lee 2 months ago

      what about graphine

    • sarah 2 months ago

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    • dhfgsdagch 2 months ago

      hi i am jdsajfhegfhsdueryfdf

    • real Donald.J.Trump 2 months ago

      TRUMP 2016

    • martin 8 weeks ago

      what about vibranium

    • dezz nuts mofo 7 weeks ago

      dezz nuts are strongs asf f*uck yoooo like dat time i f*ck ur cuzin

    • silanty 7 weeks ago

      what about tungsten carbide?

    • Holly crap its logan 5 weeks ago

      whats the strongest medal ever?

    • tak tak 4 weeks ago

      Does promethium belong on the strongest metals list?

    • amar 3 weeks ago

      very interesting article....thanks for sharing it

    • Sam 2 weeks ago

      What about Adamantium? LOL

    • Joe 8 days ago

      Man these commenters are stupid. The hardest pure metal is Chromium. Yes there are harder alloys you morons, but they are not "pure' metals. Chromium is an element. There is nothing else that makes it up. Titanium is an element as well, but it is neither as strong as Tungsten or as hard as Chromium.

    • JoeDokes 8 days ago

      Had to join to call you commenters idiots. Man you are stupid. Hardest NATURAL METAL, Chromium. PERIOD, no debate. Alloys are man made and not natural and therefore not covered in this article. Talkin to you stuart

      Second, Strongest natural metal, Tungsten. Period End of discussion.

      As far as hardest alloys go, not covered in this list so shut up all you armchair metallurgists.

      Award for biggest dumbass goes to Brandin. Tungsten is rock? Tungsten is not a pure metal? Are you friggin serious? It's an element you moron. That means it's pure. And it a metal. And its the strongest natural metal and the second hardest.

    • Andy 2 days ago

      Wow that got me an A on my test

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