Numerous industrial applications call for a display of hardness. Examples can be found in the cutting of metal plates, the grinding of surfaces, in the exploration and exploitation of natural gas and petroleum fields or when accurate holes have to be drilled in walls.
Components that have been rendered resistant to chemicals, heat or wear are also needed in other critical applications, such as for sandblasting jets, friction linings, burner nozzles, heat exchangers, etc.
All of these cases require tools and materials with a metal carbide armour-plating. Metal carbides exhibit maximum degrees of hardness and very high melting points and are able to withstand extreme chemical and thermal loads. Technically important metal carbides are manufactured from (semi)metals like boron (B), silicon (Si), tungsten (W), chromium (Cr), tantalum (Ta), niobium (Nb) or their oxides and a carbon source, which can be included at 1200 °C in a carburizing reaction under protective gas or in a vacuum. Examples include: