Molybdenum is a metal silvery in color with properties that make it one of the most prized industrial metals. It melts at 4,753 degrees Fahrenheit (2,623 degrees Celsius) — one of the highest melting points of any metal — and has the ability to withstand very high pressure and temperature without softening or expanding much. These properties make molybdenum wire useful in various products, like automotive and aircraft components, electric vacuum devices, light bulbs, heating elements, and high-temperature furnaces. Molybdenum wire can also be used for printer needles and other printer parts. Depending on what the molybdenum wire is to be used for, it can be made from pure molybdenum, from a mix of molybdenum and other materials such as potassium silicate, or from alloys of molybdenum and other metals, for example tungsten.
Molybdenum wire is often used to make parts that provide structural support, even at very high temperatures. For example, it is commonly used for various furnace components, like heating elements, outlets and windings. Its high melting point makes molybdenum wire suitable for specialized, high-temperature furnaces featuring hydrogen or vacuum atmospheres.
Another common use for molybdenum wire is as parts for light bulbs. For example, it can be used in the manufacture of supports for lamp filaments made from tungsten, to make leads for halogen lamp bulbs, and to make electrodes for gas discharge lamps and tubes. This type of wire is also used in the windshields of airplanes, where it functions as a heating element, providing defrosting. Molybdenum wire is also used in the manufacture of electron tubes and power tube grids.
The surface of the wire can either be clean or coated. Coated wire is black in color, because it is covered in oxides and lubricants. The tensile strength of wire is often an important consideration in manufacturing, and also affects the appearance of the wire: the more tensile strength, the less straight the wire is.
Molybdenum wire commonly comes in sizes from 0.001 inches (0.025 mm) in diameter, to 0.25 inches (6.35 mm) in diameter. Its size can be measured either in inches, or in mils, with 1 mil being equal to one thousandth of an inch. For very thin wire, the size is expressed in the form of weight of a certain length of wire, rather than by diameter. Molybdenum is similar in appearance to lead, and even received its name from the Greek word for lead, molybdos, because it was often mistaken for lead in ancient times.