Nickel

Article

August 13, 2022

Nickel is a chemical element with the symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery white/grey transition metal.

Discovery

Bronze artifacts containing nickel have been found in the area today known as Syria. The oldest traces of the use of nickel date back to 3500 BC. Ancient Chinese records indicate that nickel-containing minerals such as nikkolite were used to give glass a green color. The red-colored nickel ore nikkolite (also: nikkolien or red nickelkies, NiAs) was often mistaken for copper ore. Copper is an element with which nickel has many similarities. In 1751, Axel Fredrik Cronstedt tried to isolate copper from Nikolite. To his surprise, what he was left with was a silvery-white powder that he called nickel, after the German word Kupfernickel. Miners used that word for the ore from which no copper could be extracted and which yielded only the unwanted nickel. Evil earth spirits, Nickeln, were held responsible for this. The element cobalt has a similar etymology; this is where goblins would do the evil work. From 1860 nickel was used for coins in an alloy with copper.

Applications

The largest part, approximately 70%, of the nickel produced worldwide is used in the production of stainless steel. It is further used for all kinds of other alloys including hastelloy, incoloy, inconel. Other applications include: Rechargeable batteries (nickel cadmium or nickel metal hydride) Coinage (Euro coins, only €1 and €2) As a catalyst (so-called "raney nickel") for hardening and desulphurization of petroleum.

Notable Features

Nickel is ferromagnetic. In addition to iron, the Earth's core contains a significant amount of nickel.

Appearance

The main sources of nickel are the minerals limonite, garnirite and pentlandite. The latter only occurs in magma that rises to the surface in volcanoes. About 35% of all nickel mined worldwide comes from sources around Norilsk, Russia. Furthermore, sources can be found in Canada (30%; in Ontario), Australia, Cuba and Indonesia.

Ions

Nickel does not occur as a free metal in nature. The metal mainly forms divalent positive ions. This ion is referred to without further addition with regard to charge. Under the special conditions of charging a nickel-cadmium battery, the Ni3+ ion is also formed.

Isotopes

There are five stable nickel isotopes in nature, of which 58Ni is the most abundant. About 20 radioactive isotopes are known with half-lives ranging from a few seconds to thousands of years. 56Ni is produced in huge quantities in type II supernovae. Via 56Co this decays to the stable 56Fe. 59Ni is often used in meteorite aging and research into the solar system. 63Ni is used, among other things, in ECD (electron capture detector) in gas chromatography.

Toxicology and Safety

In powder form, nickel(II) sulfide is carcinogenic. Nickel tetracarbonyl (Ni(CO)4) is an extremely poisonous gas. Metallic nickel can cause allergic reactions.

World Production and Reserves

In 2011, Russia was the largest producer of nickel worldwide with a share of about 20%, followed by Canada and Australia. The largest nickel reserves in Europe, excluding Russia, are in Finland and Greece. On land, reserves are more than 130 million tons, assuming a concentration of 1% or more. Furthermore, there are still unknown quantities of nickel on the seabed. The largest producer of nickel is Nornikel, this Russian company has a world market share of 18%. At number two is the Brazilian mining company Vale (14%) and the Chinese Jinchuan has a share of 8% and is therefore in third place. Vale has an important position in this market with the acquisition of the Canadian nickel company Inco in 2006