(German Nickel, Satan or Old Nick's and from kupfernickel, Old Nick's copper) Cronstedt discovered nickel in 1751 in kupfernickel (niccolite).
Nickel is found as a constitutent in most meteorites and often serves as one of the criteria for distinguishing a meteorite from other minerals. Iron meteorites, or siderites, may contain iron alloyed with from 5 percent to nearly 20 percent nickel. Nickel is obtained commercially from pentlandite and pyrrhotite of the Sudbury region of Ontario, a district that produces about 30 percent of the world's supply of nicke.
Other deposits are found in New Caledonia, Australia, Cuba, Indonesia, and elsewhere.
Nickel is silvery white and takes on a high polish. It is hard, malleable, ductile, somewhat ferromagnetic, and a fair conductor of heat and electricity. It belongs to the iron-cobalt group of metals and is chiefly valuable for the alloys it forms.
It is extensively used for making stainless steel and other corrosion-resistant alloys such as Invar(R), Monel(R), Inconel(R), and the Hastelloys(R). Tubing made of copper-nickel alloy is extensively used in making desalination plants for converting sea water into fresh water.
Nickel, used extensively to make coins and nickel steel for armor plates and burglar-proof vaults, and is also a component in Nichrome(R), Permalloy(R), and constantan.
Nickel gives glass a greenish color. Nickel plating is often used to provide a protective coating for other metals, and finely divided nickel is a catalyst for hydrogenating vegetable oils. It is also used in ceramics, in the manufacture of Alnico magnets, and in the Edison(R) storage battery.
The sulfate and the oxides are important compounds. Natural nickel is a mixture of five stable isotopes; nine other unstable isotopes are known.
Exposure to nickel metal and soluble compounds (as Ni) should not exceed 0.05 mg/cm3 (8-hour time-weighted average - 40-hour work week). Nickel sulfide fume and dust is recognized as being potentially carcinogenic.
Sources: CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics and the American Chemical Society.
Last Updated: 12/19/97, CST Information Services Team