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Science Innovation Centre · 028 · Nickel

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Nickel is silvery-white, hard, malleable, and ductile metal. It is of the iron group and it takes on a high polish. It is a fairly good conductor of heat and electricity. In its familiar compounds nickel is bivalent, although it assumes other valences. It also forms a number of complex compounds. Most nickel compounds are blue or green. Nickel dissolves slowly in dilute acids but, like iron, becomes passive when treated with nitric acid. Finely divided nickel adsorbs hydrogen.

The major use of nickel is in the preparation of alloys. Nickel alloys are characterized by strength, ductility, and resistance to corrosion and heat. About 65% of the nickel consumed in the Western World is used to make stainless steel, whose composition can vary but is typically iron with around 18% chromium and 8% nickel. 12% of all the nickel consumed goes into super alloys. The remaining 23% of consumption is divided between alloy steels, rechargeable batteries, catalysts and other chemicals, coinage, foundry products, and plating.

Nickel is easy to work and can be drawn into wire. It resist corrosion even at high temperatures and for this reason it is used in gas turbines and rocket engines. Monel is an alloy of nickel and copper (e.g. 70% nickel, 30% copper with traces of iron, manganese and silicon), which is not only hard but can resist corrosion by sea water, so that it is ideal for propeller shaft in boats and desalination plants.