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Nickel (Ni)

QUICK REFERENCE

  • Symbol: Ni
  • Atomic Number: 28
  • Atomic Weight: 58.6934
  • Element Classification: Transition Metal
  • Discovered By: Axel Fredrik Cronstedt
  • Discovery Date: 1751
  • Name Origin: From the German word ‘kupfernickel’ meaning “devil’s copper” or “St. Nicholas’s copper”
  • Density(g/cc): 8.908
  • Melting Point: 1455°C
  • Boiling Point: 2913°C
  • Appearance: Lustrous, metallic, and silver with a gold tinge
  • Atomic Radius(pm): 124

Discovery

Nickel was discovered by the Swedish chemist Axel Fredrik Cronstedt in 1751 when he was attempting to extract copper from the mineral niccolite. To his surprise, instead of copper, he obtained a white metal that he named nickel after the mineral from which it was extracted. The term “kupfernickel” is derived from the deceptive appearance of the ore, which suggested a copper content that was not present, thus the association with a mischievous sprite, or Nickel, in German folklore.

Relation to Other Elements

Nickel is a transition metal, closely related to iron and cobalt, lying in group 10 of the periodic table. It shares many characteristics with these metals, including ferromagnetic properties, high ductility, and resistance to corrosion. Nickel is known for its slow oxidation rate at room temperature, contributing to its widespread use in alloys. The element primarily exhibits the +2 oxidation state in its compounds, though it can also adopt the +1, +3, and +4 states.

Natural Occurrence

Nickel is the fifth most common element on Earth and is extensively dispersed throughout the planet’s crust and core. It is most frequently found in combination with sulfur in pentlandite, nickel-iron sulfide, and with arsenic in the mineral niccolite. Nickel is also a component of the Earth’s iron core, contributing to the planet’s magnetic field. The majority of nickel mining today occurs in sulfide deposits, including the extensively mined Sudbury Basin in Canada, which is one of the largest suppliers of nickel in the world.

Uses

Nickel has a variety of uses across multiple industries:

  • Alloys: Nickel’s primary use is in the production of stainless steel and other corrosion-resistant alloys such as nichrome, invar, and superalloys, which are utilized in the manufacture of aircraft engines, kitchen utensils, and construction materials.
  • Batteries: Nickel is a key component in nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) and nickel-cadmium (NiCd) rechargeable batteries, and it plays a significant role in lithium-ion battery cathodes.
  • Catalysis: Nickel serves as an effective catalyst in hydrogenation, converting unsaturated compounds to saturated compounds.
  • Coinage: Due to its resistance to corrosion, nickel is used in minting coins.
  • Electronics: Nickel is used in the plating of electronic components for protection against corrosion and in the production of magnetic materials.

Nickel’s discovery expanded the possibilities for metal alloying and contributed significantly to the advancement of modern metallurgy and chemistry. Its versatile applications, from foundational infrastructure to advanced technology, underscore nickel’s importance in industrial processes and everyday life.

Cobalt (Co)

Copper (Cu)