In 1751, Axel Fredrik Cronstedt, working at Stockholm, investigated a new mineral – now called nickeline (NiAs) – which came from a mine at Los, Hälsingland, Sweden. He thought it might contain copper but what he extracted was a new metal which he announced and named nickel in 1754. Many chemists thought it was an alloy of cobalt, arsenic, iron, and copper – these elements were present as trace contaminants. It was not until 1775 that pure nickel was produced by Torbern Bergman and this confirmed its elemental nature.
Nickel resists corrosion and is used to plate other metals to protect them. It is, however, mainly used in making alloys such as stainless steel. Nichrome is an alloy of nickel and chromium with small amounts of silicon, manganese, and iron. It resists corrosion, even when red hot, so it is used in toasters and electric ovens. A copper-nickel alloy is commonly used in desalination plants, which convert seawater into freshwater. Nickel steel is widely used for armour plating. Other alloys of nickel are used in boat propeller shafts and turbine blades.
Nickel is used in batteries, including rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries and nickel-metal hydride batteries used in hybrid vehicles.
Nickel has a long history of being used in the coins field. The US five-cent piece is included 25% nickel and 75% copper. Finely divided nickel is excessively used as a catalyst for hydrogenating vegetable oils. Adding nickel to glass gives it a green color.
Nickel is an important metal added to 300-series stainless to provide better corrosion resistance, greater strength in high and low temperatures, as well as increased toughness at low temperatures. Nickel lowers the effects of work hardening, thus reducing traces of magnetism caused by cold forming and making material flow more freely in manufacturing. These materials are often used in gas turbines and chemical plants because it is capable of withstanding harsh and corrosive environments.
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