An Introduction to Nickel and its Uses

Legendary American football coach Yogi Berra once said: “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore”. This might suggest that nickel doesn’t have any real value; but that is entirely wrong. It’s uses are many and increasing.

It is one of the most corrosion-resistant metals in the world and there is evidence of it being mined and used more than five and a half thousand years ago. Incidentally it’s name comes from a German mythological sprite (a bit like Old Nick), its atomic number is 28 and chemical symbol is Ni.

Nickel in Your Daily Life

If you were to start your day by cooking your breakfast in a stainless steel pan then you are using a product which is a nickel alloy. So too might be the cutlery you use to eat your meal. The fridge you took the food out of will have nickel in it somewhere.

You might not be playing your electric guitar this early in the day but it’s likely to have nickel strings. Switch on your computer and it’ll be part of your hard drive. If you check the time on your watch as you call work on your mobile phone whilst switching on your car’s headlights, that’s three more places where it’s likely to be working for you. All this before your day even really starts!

Why Nickel is so Useful

As well as being so corrosion-resistant, alloys containing nickel are usually both very tough and extremely ductile. The metal holds its strength through wide temperature ranges. In certain combinations it also exhibits useful magnetic and electronic properties.

Between eight and twelve per cent of stainless steel is nickel, and this is one of more than three thousand such alloys which are in everyday use around the world. This usage is growing at about 4% every year and about 90% of all new nickel mined is used for the production of alloys.

Some Other Places you Can Find Nickel

Amongst the many other locations and products where nickel is present are the Empire State Building, surgical implants, aircraft engines, the Louvre Pyramid, rechargeable batteries, surgical instruments, wine-making equipment, and costume jewellery! It’s also believed that nickel is the second most abundant element in the earth’s core, although we’ll just have to believe the scientists on this one. It’s also found in meteorites and supernovas!

Nickel and the Environment

Products including nickel tend to have a long lifespan – often more than twenty-five years. It is also one of the most recycled of metals, with the exception of products where the tiny amount used simply couldn’t be recovered. Where nickel is present in special alloys it is usual for that alloy itself to be recycled. For example, about half of all new stainless steel uses are with recycled nickel.

A few final words

So nickel is all around you, helping you through the day without expecting much in the way of thanks. Perhaps you might like to give this unassuming element a little nod of approval now and then. You’d certainly miss it if it wasn’t there!

For more information on Nickel Alloys contact us, our team will be happy to discuss your requirements.