Tungsten is a prized transition metal for high-performance, heavy alloys, primarily due to its high density. Though it has a lower relative atomic mass than other heavy metals such as lead, tungsten has a density almost two times greater than lead (19.3g/cm3). One of the many benefits of this high density is an inherent ability to attenuate specific wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.

Why Use Tungsten Alloys in Medicine?

The opacity of tungsten extends well beyond the visible region of the energy spectrum into the realms of ionizing radiation. This is ideal for X-ray shielding applications in the medical industry. Yet pure tungsten is rarely – if ever – used in imaging or radiotherapy applications due to its relatively poor workability. Introducing nominal amounts of copper, iron, and/or nickel into the matrix of a tungsten alloy makes it much easier to machine into intricate shapes for critical engineering parts in the medical sector.

Tungsten alloys are subsequently used in diagnostic medicine and advanced therapeutics due to its exceptional radiation management capabilities. But its excellent engineering mechanical properties, coupled with good workability cannot be overlooked, as these characteristics enable tungsten alloys to be formatted as complex configurations like multi-leaf collimators.

Medical Applications of Tungsten Alloys

As cancer therapeutics and imaging become more sophisticated, the need for highly reliable radiation management systems only grows. Consequently, precision-engineered tungsten alloy parts are employed in an ever-growing range of medical applications. A brief selection of these includes:

  • Computed tomography
  • External beam radiotherapy
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • X-ray imaging

Tungsten Alloy Components Used in Medical Systems

The superior workability of tungsten alloys compared to the pure refractory means they can be configured in various ways to suit this growing and increasingly versatile demand. Anti-scatter grids and collimators are among the most typical components fabricated from tungsten alloys for use in medical imaging, but greater innovation has enabled more efficient component designs for radiation beam management and shielding.

Want to learn more about our expertise in this area? Read our recent article: Decades of Material Expertise in Metals for Medical Devices

Multi-leaf collimators comprised of multiple, independently mobile tungsten leaves can dynamically manipulate beams to ensure they are always delivered in tightly conformed shapes while carefully managing radiation dosage. Source collimators and isotope containers are likewise available in a range of increasingly complex formats to suit new and improved radiological systems.

Tungsten Alloys from H.C. Starck Solutions

H.C. Starck Solutions designs and supplies custom components for advanced medical applications, using the best material per individual customer specifications. Our tungsten alloys are based on decades of expertise in refractory metals, and years of supplying radiation shielding and management systems for cancer therapeutics and medical imaging applications. If you have any queries about our medical capabilities, why not contact a member of the team today?