Can a metal detector detect tungsten? Tungsten is a rare element. This element is also paramagnetic, meaning it has a weak attraction to magnets. It is common knowledge that metal detectors work by sensing the magnetic fields created by their target. It leads us to the question – can tungsten create enough magnetic field for a metal detector to detect it?
Metal detectors can detect tungsten and tungsten carbide (a combination of tungsten and carbon). Despite being paramagnetic, tungsten has a high electrical conductivity. This property allows it to react to the electromagnetic field sent by a metal detector.
Tungsten is a rare naturally-occurring metal used in heavy metal alloys. There is also jewelry-grade tungsten used for making accessories like rings. This element is about ten times harder than gold, making it an ideal component for various metal objects.
Moreover, metal detectors, especially the beginner ones, often wonder whether or not lost tungsten items are detectable by a metal detector. The reason is that tungsten is a rare element, so not many metal detector enthusiasts have encountered finding an item that consists of such a metal.
In this article, we will discuss the properties of tungsten to answer the question, “Can a metal detector detect tungsten?”
Metal detectors work by producing an electromagnetic field and transmitting it from the search coil into the ground. Suppose there are metals in the ground that the electromagnetic field can reach. In that case, it will create its own electromagnetic field and retransmit it into the metal detector’s search coil.
Tungsten is non-ferrous and paramagnetic or weakly attracted to magnets, so you may think it cannot set off a metal detector. However, this element has high electric conductivity, creating a strong magnetic field that your metal detector can sense. This element has a higher electrical conductivity than zinc.
Moreover, different industries, such as jewelry makers, sometimes mix tungsten with other elements, such as carbon. Combining 50 percent tungsten and 50 percent carbon results in tungsten carbide. Since carbon has an incredibly low electrical conductivity, metal detector enthusiasts wonder if tungsten carbide can set off a metal detector. However, carbon does not affect the electrical conductivity of tungsten, so a metal detector can still detect it.
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As mentioned, the coiled wire on a metal detector’s transmitter creates an electromagnetic field that it sends into the ground. While tungsten carbide cannot generate a magnetic field, the electromagnetic signals sent by the metal detector affect its atoms. It also changes the movement of the electrons in the metal. It results in a rise in magnetism, causing tungsten carbide to respond to the electromagnetic signals sent by the metal detector.
Simply put, tungsten carbide responds to the electromagnetic field sent by the metal detector by sending off its own electric current. (source)
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As mentioned, tungsten only has a weak attraction to magnets. For this reason, you may wonder how it can set off a metal detector.
There are three classifications of metals:
- stainless steel
- ferrous metals
- non-ferrous metals
One of the two crucial factors that affect your metal detector’s sensitivity is the magnetic permeability of the target. Tungsten belongs to the non-ferrous metal category, so it cannot create a magnetic field that your device can detect. However, tungsten is also a good conductor of electricity, even a little better than nickel. Electrical conductivity is the second crucial factor that lets your metal detector sense a metal target.
So, even if tungsten cannot create a magnetic field, its high electrical conductivity allows it to respond to the signals sent by metal detectors. The same principle applies to other non-ferrous metals like gold, aluminum, copper, and bronze. (source)
Can All Types Of Metal Detectors Detect Tungsten?
There are three types of metal detectors:
- Very Low Frequency (VLF) Metal Detector – consists of a transmitter and receiver coil
- Pulse Induction (PI) Metal Detector – works by sending electronic currents that bounce bank when they hit metal targets.
- Multi-Frequency Metal Detector – simultaneously uses three to five frequencies to detect metal targets. If one frequency misses a target, the remaining frequencies can potentially pick it up, increasing your chances of finding valuables.
However, not all these three types can effectively sense tungsten buried in the ground. A Pulse Induction metal detector does an excellent job of sensing non-ferrous metals underground, such as gold and silver. On the other hand, a Very Low-Frequency metal detector adapts more to tungsten.
A VLF metal detector consists of two search coils. One of the coils sends an electromagnetic field into the ground, while the other acts as a receiver for electromagnetic fields released by metals buried in the ground. Once the receiver coil receives a signal, it amplifies that signal, thus allowing the metal detector to inform the user about the presence of metal in the ground. The stronger the signal is, the louder the sound a VLF metal detector will create.
A VLF metal detector can detect tungsten better than a PI metal detector because of its two-search coil design. Since a VLF metal detector has a separate receiver coil, it can sense targets better, even if their electromagnetic fields are weak.
It also has a control box that contains the device’s speaker, batteries, controls, and microprocessor. This control box analyzes the signal sensed by the receiver coil and transforms it into audio cues. Modern metal detectors can even convert electromagnetic signals into visual cues. This way, VLF metal detector users can easily read the signals and increase their chances of a find. (source)
There are instances when you are trying to look for an item made of tungsten buried underground, but nothing is setting your metal detector off. It could mean two things:
- your metal detector is not working
- some factors affect your metal detector’s sensitivity
The first problem is easy to figure out. You can place a metal object on the ground and swipe your metal detector above it. If your device does not react to the metal, it is not working. On the other hand, five factors can affect the sensitivity of your metal detector:
Metal detectors can receive signals from items buried up to 4 to 8 inches deep. There are also specialized metal detectors that can reach a depth of 65 feet. If you use a regular metal detector, and an object made of tungsten is more than 8 inches deep underground, your device will have difficulty sensing it.
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Sweeping your metal detector too fast can cause it not to detect metals underground. For instance, if you lost a tungsten ring and used a metal detector to find it, you need to sweep your device slowly. A slow sweeping motion will give the metal detector time to detect an electromagnetic field and convert it into an audio or visual cue.
On the other hand, your metal detector may also send off signals even when no metal is buried underground. One of the main reasons why this happens is that your device’s coil is bumping into the ground.
One of the most common problems encountered by metal detector enthusiasts is electromagnetic interference. Buried powerlines commonly cause such a problem. Electromagnetic interference can cause your metal detector to send off signals even when no metal objects are buried in the area.
Suppose the ground where you are metal detecting has a high amount of minerals and metallic particles. In that case, your metal may become overly sensitive and signal you about the presence of metal. However, it may only receive electromagnetic signals from the metal particles in the ground. The higher the soil mineralization is, the more your metal detector will send off false alerts.
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Suppose you are metal detecting with your fellow metal detector enthusiasts. In that case, chances are you will detect each other’s electromagnetic field instead of potential metal finds. (source)
Considering how many unknown metal objects are hiding underground, looking for a tungsten object using your metal detector can be difficult. For instance, water pipes, old nails, foils, and metallic particles can interfere with your search by setting off your metal detector.
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Fortunately, you can set your metal detector to ignore certain metals. While it cannot precisely detect tungsten alone, you can reduce the objects that can interfere with your search. You accomplish this by using your metal detector’s discrimination settings.
Discrimination is the metal detector’s way of ignoring certain metals and focusing only on targets that meet the conductivity and ferrous properties you set. That said, tungsten has a conductivity of 8 to 9 siemens per meter and is non-ferrous.
Furthermore, there are different metal detector discrimination settings:
You can set a metal detector’s variable discrimination using a dial. Turning this dial increases and decreases the level of discrimination your device will respond to when active. Valuable discrimination is ideal for people who are experts in metal detecting. The reason is that these people already know how much or how little discrimination they should use based on the type of metal they seek.
It allows you to choose what metals will set off your metal detector based on their conductivity. This way, you can narrow down the types of metals that will respond to the signals sent by your metal detector. Setting your metal detector’s notch discrimination will allow it to ignore the metals that did not reach the level of conductivity your metal detector requires. (source)
Can a metal detector detect tungsten? Tungsten has high electrical conductivity, so it can set off a metal detector even if it is paramagnetic. Even tungsten carbide is detectable via a metal detector as its carbon content does not affect the electrical conductivity of tungsten.
Do you have comments or suggestions about this article? Our comment section is open, so drop off your questions, and we will do our best to answer them!
The electrons and atoms of tungsten react when it receives electromagnetic signals sent by a metal detector by generating its electric current. As a result, your device will detect its presence underground.
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- Can You Metal Detect on BLM Land? – So many people have asked me about BLM detecting I had to write this article.
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