Nickel is a metallic element found in period four and group ten of the periodic table. It is silvery white in color. The metal is hard, ductile and malleable it is also very resistant to corrosion. It is these properties that dictate many of its uses.
The main use of nickel is in the production of stainless steel. For this, it is alloyed with steel. Nickel-steel alloys are very strong. They have found uses in the production of armor plate as well as burglarproof vaults and heavy-duty machine parts. A number of different iron and steel alloys of nickel have been produced. Permalloy is a magnetic alloy containing 80 % nickel used in the telecommunication industry. Invar, a nickel steel alloy, is used in scientific instruments. Monel an alloy of nickel, copper and iron is of use in corrosive conditions.
Another alloy of nickel, which utilizes its corrosion resistance, is copper-nickel. Tubing made of this alloy is used in desalination plants, which produce fresh water from seawater. Copper-nickel is also of use in minting coins and gives its name to the American five-cent coin or nickel.
Nichrome is a non-magnetic alloy made of 80% nickel and 20% chromium. It is use to make the heating elements in electric ovens, toasters and hairdryers. It also has uses in microbiological laboratories. Iconel, another nickel chrome alloy, is also used at high temperatures. Hastelalloy is a mixture of nickel, molybdenum and chromium suitable for use in corrosive conditions.
Alnico magnets are powerful permanent magnets that are made of an alloy of three metals aluminum, nickel and cobalt. Occasionally other metals, such as titanium or copper, can be added to the mix depending on the properties required in the final magnet. Alnico magnets are used in a number of diverse technologies particularly where a stable magnetic field is required in variable temperature conditions. These technologies include voltmeters, medical equipments, aviation and mobile phones.
The hydrogenation of vegetable oils can be aided by the use of a finely divided nickel catalyst.
A large amount of the compound nickel sulfate is produced for use in the electroplating industry. Nickel electroplating of metals gives them a corrosion resistant coating.
Nickel has a long association with the glass making industry. The addition of nickel to glass imparts a green color to the final product.
Rechargeable batteries such as nickel cadmium and nickel iron batteries will often use the compound nickel (III) oxide as the cathode.
Measurements of nickel content in rocks is use to identify meteorites, which can contain 25% nickel as apposed to rocks from the Earths crust, which typically only contain on average 84 milligrams of nickel in a kilogram of rock.