Electron configuration and elemental properties of nickel.
Electron configuration and elemental properties of nickel.
Credit: Greg Robson/Creative Commons, Andrei Marincas Shutterstock
Atomic Number: 28
Atomic Symbol: Ni
Atomic Weight: 58.6934
Melting Point: 2,651 F (1,455 C)
Boiling Point: 5,275.4 F (2,913 C)

Word origin: The word nickel is a shortened translation of the German word kupfernickel. Kupfer means copper and the term nickel in German referred to Satan or the devil.

Discovery: Baron Axel Fredrik Cronstedt discovered nickel in 1751 in kupfernickel (niccolite).

Properties of nickel

Nickel is a hard, malleable, ductile metal with ferromagnetic properties. It is silvery white and can conduct heat as well as electricity. The sulfates and oxides of metal are commonly used in many products. [See Periodic Table of the Elements]

A small chunk of nickel, about 3 square centimeters.
A small chunk of nickel, about 3 square centimeters.
Credit: Materialscientist at en.wikipedia

Natural nickel is a mix of five isotopes. There are nine other known isotopes.

Sources of nickel

The Sudbury region of Ontario produces about 30 percent of the world's supply of nickel. In this region, the element is found commercially in the minerals pentlandite and pyrrhotite.  Other large deposits of nickel are found in several areas including New Caledonia, Australia, Cuba and Indonesia.

Nickel is also found commonly in many meteorites and is often used to distinguish a meteorite from other minerals. Siderites, which are iron meteorites, can have 5 to 20 percent nickel alloyed with iron.

Uses of nickel

Nickel is important because it forms alloys with several other elements. It’s useful in making corrosive-resistant alloys such as the patented products Invar, Monel, Inconel and the Hastelloys. It’s also used to make stainless steel products.

The U.S. five-cent coin or nickel is actually a hybrid of copper and nickel. Steel with a component of nickel can be used for armor plates, burglar-proof vaults and other safety products. It’s also used to make Nichrome, Permalloy and constantan.

Nickel plating is often used to coat other metals for protection. It’s also used in the manufacture of Alnico magnents, ceramics, and in the Edison storage battery. Nickel will give glass a greenish tinge and if finely processed it can be a catalyst for hydrogenating vegetable oils.

(Source: Los Alamos National Laboratory)