Nickel is a transition metal and is located in the tenth column of the periodic table. It has an atomic number of 28 and its symbol is Ni. Nickel has a melting point of 1455°C and a boiling point of 2913°C. It is the fifth most abundant element in earth’s crust and most of it is inaccessible as it is located in the core of the earth.
The story behind the name of this metal is very interesting. Germans called nickel ‘kupfernickel’ or ‘Devil’s Copper’. It has been reported that Germans believed that nickel contained copper. However, their failure to extract copper and subsequent frustration resulted in naming the metal as such. Philippines is the world leader in nickel production and is followed by Indonesia, Russia, Canada and Australia.
Nickel is silvery-white metal with a hint of golden color. It is hard and ductile. Nickel is a good conductor of electricity and heat. It is considerably corrosion resistant and can be polished to shine. It is one of only four metals that are magnetic at room temperature (others are iron, cobalt and gadolinium). Most of the industrial grade nickel is obtained from ores like pentlandite, garnierite and limonite. Nickel is also found in meteorites and much of Canada’s nickel reserves are believed to have come from meteorites.
Nickel is primarily used for making nickel steel and alloys. Nickel steel like stainless steel is very strong and corrosion resistant. Nickel is alloyed with iron and some other metals to manufacture magnets as well. Another very important application is in battery production.
Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) and Nickel Metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries are rechargeable. Nickel is also used to manufacture coins and armor plates for use in military hardware. Nickel has been historically used in place of silver for the purpose of decoration, owing to its corrosion resistant properties.
Listed below are some very interesting and rarely known facts about nickel:
- Nickel is one of the constituent of US five cent coin. It is called nickel and has 75% copper and 25% nickel.
- More than 65% of the nickel produced is used for making stainless steel.
- Nickel is very important for plant life. This is why fruits, vegetables and food made from them are the primary source of dietary nickel.
- Nickel is the second most abundant element in meteorites after iron.
- Pure nickel is very rarely found on earth.
- Nickel plating objects is a process of making them corrosion resistant. Almost 6% of total nickel production is used for this purpose.
- Recycled nickel accounts for 39% of the total nickel used every year.
- Nickel-Titanium alloy has the ability to remember its shape. It can return back to its previous shape if heated after being bent.
- Nickel can be helpful in determining the age of meteorites.
- Nickel is also obtained from large reserves in the ocean.
- While nickel’s separate identity was established in 1751, unintentional use of the metal dates back to 3500 BC.
- Nickel is believed to be a common skin allergen. It wide use in coinage was also discontinued for the same reason.
- Nickel is the second most abundant element in earth’s core. The most abundant element is iron.
- Nickel has five stable isotopes and the most common isotope is nickel-58.
- Some nickel compounds are carcinogenic and may cause cancer if inhaled.
- Evidences suggest that a zinc-nickel alloy ‘white copper’ was being used in China in 200BC.
- Discovery of large nickel reserves in Canada, Russia and South Africa during late 19th and early 20th century allowed large scale production of nickel.