An Overview about the Chemical Element Nickel


Symbol: Ni

Atomic Number: 28

Atomic Mass: 58.6934 amu (atomic mass units)

Melting Point: 1453.0 C (1726.15 K, 2647.4 F)

Boiling Point: 2732.0 C (3005.15 K, 4949.6 F)

Number of Protons: 28

Number of Electrons: 28

Number of Neutrons: 31

Classification: Transition Metal

Crystal Structure: Cubic

Density @ 293 K: 8.902 grams per cubic centimeter

Color: white

Nickel was discovered in 1751 by Baron Axel Frederik Cronstedt in Sweden in the mineral ore niccolite from which he was expecting to extract the element copper. Minerals containing nickel had been used to color glass green and were given the German name kupfernickel which means Old Nicks copper or the Devils copper. With this in mind Cronstedt expected to isolate copper from the mineral instead of which he found a silvery colored metal to which he gave the name nickel.

Nickel is hard, malleable and ductile. It can conduct heat and electricity it is also slightly ferromagnetic. The metal can be given a high polish.

The bulk of the world’s nickel production comes from the mineral pentlandite the Sudbury area of Ontario, Canada. This area is believed to be the site of a large prehistoric meteorite impact and meteorites can contain up to 25% nickel. It is this high nickel content that is often used to distinguish meteorites from earth rocks.

There are five stable isotopes of nickel the most abundant of which is nickel-58 at 66.077%. The next most abundant is nickel-60 at 26.233%. The remaining 5.7% is made up of nickel-61, nickel-62 and nickel-64. There are also twenty six unstable isotopes of nickel that have been discovered with half lives that range from about 150 nanoseconds (nickel-77) to 76000 years (nickel-59).

In addition to being hard and malleable nickel is also highly resistant to corrosion. These properties have led to a number of valuable industrial uses.

* Electroplated on to other metals is provides a protective coating.

* Alloyed with copper it is used to make the corrosion resistant tubing used in desalination plants.

* Used in the manufacture of some coins such as the American five cent coin or “nickel”.

* When alloyed with steel it can be used as armor plate as well as making vaults and machine parts.

* Powerful permanent magnets known as Alnico magnets are made from an alloy of aluminum, nickel and cobalt.

* Nickel is used in the production of batteries.

* A catalyst of finely divided nickel is used in the hydrogenation of vegetable oils.

* It is still added to glass to give a green coloration.

A number of biological roles for nickel have been found for certain species.

* Rats and chicks on a nickel deficient diet develop liver problems.

* Plant ureases contain nickel.

* Bacterial hydrogenases also contain nickel as part of their molecular structure.

Not all nickel compounds are beneficial Nickel carbonyl NiCO4 is very toxic gas. Exposure to this as should not exceed 0.007 milligrams per cubic meter.