Where Found (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Primary Uses (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Nickel is widely used in stainless steel and other alloys as well as in plating, catalytic processes, and batteries. Stainless steel is commonly about 8 percent nickel. Nickel alloys are also used in marine hardware, magnets, coinage, and tableware. In 2008, the apparent consumption of primary nickel in the United States was about 127,000 metric tons, while world production was about 1.6 million metric tons.
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Technical Definition (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Nickel (symbol Ni) is a shiny metal with a density of 8.9 grams per cubic centimeter (slightly greater than that of iron). Nickel melts at 1,455° Celsius and boils at 2,920° Celsius. Along with iron and cobalt, it constitutes the iron group triad in the periodic table—traditionally Group VIII, now Group 10. Nickel (atomic number 28) has five stable isotopes and an atomic weight of 58.71. It is malleable and ductile, and it resists corrosion in air.
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Description, Distribution, and Forms (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Nickel occurs in detectable amounts in the Earth’s crust, the atmosphere, and the seas. Earth’s core is thought to contain nickel and iron, and some meteorites do. The average crustal concentration is about 100 micrograms per gram, which ranks twenty-second among the elements. Rural air may contain as much as 10 nanograms per cubic meter, and urban air ten times as much. Average nickel content in seawater is 0.1-0.6 microgram per liter, and there are about 4 micrograms per liter in groundwater.
Elemental nickel occurs in meteorites, marine nodules, and the metallic core of the Earth. Ores of nickel include oxides, sulfides, arsenides, and silicates, which often also contain copper. The largest commercially exploited nickel ore deposit is in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. The ore there is a complex sulfide called pentlandite, which contains in addition to nickel a number of other metals, including iron and platinum group elements. Approximately 30 percent of the world’s known reserves of nickel are in Sudbury. Major ore deposits also occur in the western Siberian arctic and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. silicate ores such as garnierite (a nickel-magnesium silicate) are mined in Australia, Cuba, Indonesia, and New Caledonia. The major producers of nickel are Russia, Canada, Indonesia, Australia, and New Caldonia. In 1998, the United States stopped producing primary nickel. From 1999 to 2007, the United...
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History (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
The European history of nickel began with Saxon miners who encountered an ore of nickel they thought contained copper and derisively named kupfernickel, or “devil’s copper.” In 1751, Axel Fredrik Cronstedt investigated a sample of ore from a mine in Hälsingland, Sweden and concluded that it contained a new element, which he obtained in impure form. In 1754, he named the element. Torbern Olaf Bergman obtained a sample of the pure metal in 1775. The first nickel smelter began operating in Sweden in 1838 and was followed by others in Norway and elsewhere in Europe. One early motivation for nickel production was the desire to produce nickel-silver alloy from local resources instead of importing it from China. The nickel reserves in New Caledonia were noted by Jules Garnier, who helped establish a French nickel industry and later served as a consultant in Ontario, Canada, after the Sudbury nickel deposits started to be exploited in 1888. The founder of the nickel industry in the United States was Joseph Wharton, whose smelter in Camden, New Jersey, at one time in the nineteenth century produced one-sixth of the world’s nickel.
In Britain the nickel carbonyl process was developed in the late nineteenth century by Ludwig Mond and soon became commercially important.
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Obtaining Nickel (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Uses of Nickel (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Nickel finds its most important uses in stainless steel and other alloys, in plating, and in catalysts. Valued for its resistance to rusting, stainless steel exists in a multitude of types and compositions, but it is most typically 18 percent chromium, 8 percent nickel, and the rest iron. Nickel-copper alloys such as Monel (68 percent nickel) possess corrosion resistance toward chlorine compounds and salt and are used in marine hardware. Nichrome (60 percent nickel, 40 percent chromium) is used for heating elements in resistance heaters, while nickel silver (composed of nickel, copper, and zinc) is used for coinage, jewelry, and tableware. Powerful permanent magnets make use of a steel alloy called alnico (aluminum, nickel, cobalt). Nickel plating is important for protecting steel from corrosion and for steel’s appearance. Rechargeable batteries for portable equipment such as radios, cordless telephones, and flashlights are often nickel cadmium cells, while nickel hydride cells have been used in computers and electric vehicles. Thomas Edison developed a battery using hydrated nickel oxide as an electrode coating, and in the late twentieth century, a nickel chloride-sodium battery was developed. One growing use is in nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries for hybrid vehicles, despite competition from lithium-ion batteries. Nickel-based batteries have also experienced higher demand with the growth of the wind-power industry....
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Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Global Resources)
Adriano, Domy C. “Nickel.” In Trace Elements in Terrestrial Environments: Biogeochemistry, Bioavailability, and Risks of Metals. 2d ed. New York: Springer, 2001.
Greenwood, N. N., and A. Earnshaw. “Nickel, Palladium, and Platinum.” In Chemistry of the Elements. 2d ed. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1997.
Hausinger, Robert P. Biochemistry of Nickel. New York: Plenum Press, 1993.
Howard-White, F. B. Nickel: An Historical Review. Toronto: Longmans Canada, 1963.
Lippard, Stephen J., and Jeremy M. Berg. Principles of Bioinorganic Chemistry. Mill Valley, Calif.: University Science Books, 1994.
Sigel, Astrid, Helmut Sigel, and Roland K. O. Sigel, eds. Nickel and Its Surprising Impact in Nature. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2007.
Silva, J. J. R. Fraústo da, and R. J. P. Williams. “Nickel and Cobalt: Remnants of Life?” In The Biological Chemistry of the Elements: The Inorganic Chemistry of Life. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Natural Resources Canada. Canadian Minerals Yearbook, Mineral and Metal Commodity Reviews. http://www.nrcan-rncan.gc.ca/mms-smm/busi-indu/cmy-amc/com-eng.htm
U.S. Geological Survey. Nickel: Statistics and Information. http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/commodity/nickel
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Nickel (Chemical Elements)
Nickel is the only element named after the devil. The name comes from the German word Kupfernickel, meaning "Old Nick's copper," a term used by German miners. They tried to remove copper from an ore that looked like copper ore, but they were unsuccessful. Instead of copper, they got slag, a useless mass of earthy material. The miners believed the devil ("Old Nick") was playing a trick on them. So they called the fake copper ore Old Nick's copper.
Since then, nickel has become a very valuable metal. The most common use is in the production of stainless steel, a strong material that does not rust easily. It is used in hundreds of industrial and consumer applications. Nickel is also used in the manufacture of many other alloys. An alloy is made by melting and mixing two or more metals. The mixture has properties different from those of the individual metals.
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