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Ever since steel was created, it has been the go to material for swords since antiquity and into the modern era (for actual replicas and not wall hangers). Of course while being effective it is also, subjectively, boring for a sci fi setting. Many other sci fi works have recognized this and have attempted to implement super metals into there future melee weapons.

Thus far, the only metal that can fits the futuristic vibe is Cemented tungsten carbide, as while it's technically a ceramic, cemented tungsten carbide does have some ductility in it making it for more durable than other ceramics. An example of it's use is in sci fi is Halo's Spiker which has two cemented tungsten carbide bayonets.

enter image description here

Now, while knives have been made out of cemented tungsten carbide exist, none of them are very long due to the difficulty of forging the material.

So assuming that we have figured out this problem how well would a cemented tungsten carbide sword hold up when compared to other materials like steel and bronze?

For the parameters of the question, we will assume the sword the tungsten carbide has been forged into a blade similar to late bronze/ early iron age designs like pictured below.

Bronze age swords

This picture depicts bronze age swords which are around 50cm to 70cm long (assuming the ruler is in centimeters). Iron swords This depicts swords from the iron age and are around the same length as the bronze swords as mentioned above.

EDIT: As many of you pointed out, the material of the knife is cemented tungsten carbide, not tungsten carbide itself. I've corrected the mistake. As for the question for the question of cemented carbide swords, this question is specifically asking for the performance of cemented tungsten carbide only, not any other cemented material.

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  • $\begingroup$ Might be a little on the brittle side of things $\endgroup$
    – Lemming
    Dec 5 '21 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ Sandrin Carbide – What is it? on Knife Steel Nerds. A very interesting discussion of the material of the knives mentioned in the question. Long story short, it is of course much harder than ordinary steel, about twice as heavy, very hard to sharpen and with quite poor toughness. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 5 '21 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ I can attest to the brittleness. I've seen tungsten carbide blades and drill bits chip and break. $\endgroup$
    – BMF
    Dec 5 '21 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ Suspecting it would be like making a ceramic cooking knife into a sword. Sounds good, not so good IRL. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Dec 5 '21 at 17:36
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    $\begingroup$ This is NOT a duplicate of the linked question, which discussed cemented tungsten carbide, which is a composite. The properties are different: for an analogy, compare glass and fiberglass :-) One major problem is that tungsten carbide is heavy: 15.63 g/cm³ vs 7.75 - 8.05 g/cm³ for steels (depending on exact composition). So a sword of the same dimensions will be about twice as heavy, thus slower to wield, so the wielder is likely to get slaughtered. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 6 '21 at 3:41
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Tungsten carbide does has some ductility but it's still crystalline rather than metallic in structure. This means is has natural planes of cleavage which make it far less shock resistant than pure tungsten, let alone steel. The longer a weapon is the more leverage it's going to put on the crystal structure in a swinging attack so those beautiful leaf-shaped bronze slashing blades aren't really an option. Proportionally shorter stabbing blades like the Roman Gladius on the other hand do bear consideration.

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  • $\begingroup$ The material (cemented tungsten carbide) of the knives referenced in the question is a concrete made of tungsten carbide granules and a cobalt binder. As such, it has very different properties than a large piece of tungsten carbide. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 5 '21 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP The material link references pure tungsten carbide not cemented tungsten carbide like you see in engineering tools. You're right that cemented tungsten carbide has very different mechanical properties and would be a different proposition. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Dec 6 '21 at 1:30
  • $\begingroup$ I was refering to the link to the knives in the question. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Dec 6 '21 at 5:07

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