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Nickel (Ni) has an atomic number of 28 and it is a hard, ductile and ferromagnetic substance. It is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s core (after iron) and was first identified by Swedish scientist, Baron Axel Frederik Cronstedt, in 1751, while attempting to extract copper from a mineral named niccolite. In fact, the name derives from ‘old Nick’ a nickname for Satan, as miners believed the Devil swapped the copper in the mineral for nickel. A test for nickel is often used to identify meteorites, as it nearly always appears in these rocks, usually in combination with iron.


This silvery white metal can be polished to a high shine and is a good conductor of heat and electricity. It is mostly used as part of an alloy, combined with elements such as chromium, copper, iron, zinc and bronze, to enhance its anti-acid and anti-corrosion properties. Hastelloy, in particular, is important in industrial processes involving the use of phosphoric and sulphuric acid. Nickel can provoke an allergic reaction in some people.


The world’s main nickel ore deposits are found in Ontario in the US, Cuba, Australia and Indonesia. Most mined nickel ends up in alloys, such as Cupronickel, Alumel, Chromel, Hastelloy, Incromel and Monel. Nickel is also a major component in the production stainless steel.


Generally, nickel comes as an alloy, such as copper-nickel, commonly employed in marine environments, such as desalination plants. In the food industry, it is used to hydrogenate vegetable oil. Nickel is also an important in the manufacture of:

  • Coinage
  • Armour plating
  • Batteries
  • Ceramics
  • Magnets

Interesting Fact

The US five cent coin, known as a ‘nickel’ only contains 25% nickel.

Chemical Data
CAS number 7440-32-6
Thermal neutron cross section 5.6 barns/atom
Electrode potential 0.20 V
Ionic radius 0.680 A
Electro negativity 1.54
X-ray absorption edge 2.497 A
Electrochemical equivalent 0.4468 g/A/h

Physical Properties

Properties Metric Imperial
Density 4.50 g/cm3 0.163 lb/in3
Melting point 933.47 °C 3000-3040 °F
Boiling point 3287 °C 5949 °F

Thermal Properties

Properties Metric Imperial
Thermal expansion co-efficient (@20-100°C/68-212°F) 8.90 µm/m°C 4.94 µin/in°F
Thermal conductivity 17 W/mK 118 BTU in/hr.ft².°F

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