There are two forms of WC, a hexagonal form, α-WC (hP2, space group P6m2, No. 187), and a cubic high-temperature form, β-WC, which has the rock salt structure. The hexagonal form can be visualized as made up of a simple hexagonal lattice of metal atoms of layers lying directly over one another (i.e. not close packed), with carbon atoms filling half the interstices giving both tungsten and carbon a regular trigonal prismatic, 6 coordination. From the unit cell dimensions the following bond lengths can be determined; the distance between the tungsten atoms in a hexagonally packed layer is 291 pm, the shortest distance between tungsten atoms in adjoining layers is 284 pm, and the tungsten carbon bond length is 220 pm. The tungsten-carbon bond length is therefore comparable to the single bond in W(CH3)
6 (218 pm) in which there is strongly distorted trigonal prismatic coordination of tungsten.
Molecular WC has been investigated and this gas phase species has a bond length of 171 pm for 184W12C.