Nickel was isolated first and recognized as an element by Cronstedt in 1751. The metal was derived in pure form by Richter in 1804. The metal takes its name from two German words ‘Nickel’ and ‘kupfernickel’, which mean Old Nick’s (or Satan) and Old Nick’s copper, respectively.
The abundance of nickel in the earth’s crust is only 84 mg/kg, the 24th most abundant element. It is found in most meteorites, particularly in the iron meteorites or siderites, alloyed with iron. Its average concentration in seawater is 0.56 μg/mL. Nickel is one of the major components of the earth’s core, comprising about 7%.
The most common nickel ores are pentlandite, (Ni,Fe)9S16, limonite, (Fe,Ni)O(OH)•nH2O, and garnierite, (Ni,Mg)6Si4O10(OH)8. Other ores that are of rare occurrence are the sulfide ores, millerite, NiS, polydymite Ni3S4 and siegenite, (Co,Ni)3S4; the arsenide ores niccolite, NiAs, gersdorffite, NiAsS, and annabergite, Ni3As2O8•8H2O; and the antimonide ore, NiSb.
silver white, hard, malleable metal chunks or grey powder
Air & Water Reactions
Pyrophoric, Ignites spontaneously in the presence of air; during storage, H2 escapes with fire and explosion hazards; reacts violently with acids forming H2. [Handling Chemicals Safely 1980. p. 807].
Nickel-plating; for various alloys such as new silver, Chinese silver, German silver; for coins, electrotypes, storage batteries; magnets, lightning-rod tips, electrical contacts and electrodes, spark plugs, machinery parts; catalyst for hydrogenation of oils and other organic substances. See also Raney nickel. manufacture of Monel metal, stainless steels, heat resistant steels, heat and corrosion resistant alloys, nickel-chrome resistance wire; in alloys for electronic and space applications.
Nickel is a hard, silvery white, malleable metal chunk or grey powder. Nickel powder is pyrophoric
– can ignite spontaneously. It may react violently with titanium, ammonium nitrate,
potassium perchlorate, and hydrazoic acid. It is incompatible with acids, oxidising agents,
and sulphur. The industrially important nickel compounds are nickel oxide (NiO), nickel
acetate (Ni(C2H3O2), nickel carbonate (NiCO3), nickel carbonyl (Ni(CO)4), nickel subsulphide
(NiS2), nickelocene (C5H5)2Ni, and nickel sulphate hexahydrate (NiSO4 · 6H2O). Nickel compounds
have been well established as human carcinogens. Investigations into the molecular
mechanisms of nickel carcinogenesis have revealed that not all nickel compounds are
equally carcinogenic: certain water-insoluble nickel compounds exhibit potent carcinogenic
activity, whereas highly water-soluble nickel compounds exhibit less potency. The reason
for the high carcinogenic activity of certain water-insoluble nickel compounds relates to
their bioavailability and the ability of the nickel ions to enter cells and reach chromatin. The
water-insoluble nickel compounds enter cells quite efficiently via phagocytic processes and
subsequent intracellular dissolution. Nickel is classified as a borderline metal ion because
it has both soft and hard metal properties and it can bind to sulphur, nitrogen, and oxygen
groups. Nickel ions are very similar in structure and coordination properties to magnesium.
Metals, such as METAL CATALYST, are reducing agents and tend to react with oxidizing agents. Their reactivity is strongly influenced by their state of subdivision: in bulk they often resist chemical combination; in powdered form they may react very rapidly. Thus, as a bulk metal Nickel is somewhat unreactive, but finely divided material may be pyrophoric. The metal reacts exothermically with compounds having active hydrogen atoms (such as acids and water) to form flammable hydrogen gas and caustic products. The reactions are less vigorous than the similar reactions of alkali metals, but the released heat can still ignite the released hydrogen. Materials in this group may react with azo/diazo compounds to form explosive products. These metals and the products of their corrosion by air and water can catalyze polymerization reactions in several classes of organic compounds; these polymerizations sometimes proceed rapidly or even explosively. Some metals in this group form explosive products with halogenated hydrocarbons. Can react explosively with oxidizing materials.
Nickel usually is recovered from its sulfide ore, pentlandite (Ni,Fe)9S16. Although laterite type oxide ores sometimes are used as starting materials, pentlandite is used in many commercial operations. Pentlandite often is found in nature associated with other sulfide minerals, such as pyrrhotite, Fe7S8,and chalcopyrite, CuFeS2.
The ores are crushed and powdered. Sulfides are separated from gangue by froth flotation or magnetic separation processes. After this, the ore is subjected to roasting and smelting. These steps are carried out initially in rotary kilns or multihearth furnaces and then smelting is done in either blast furnaces or reverberatory, or arc furnaces. Most sulfur is removed as sulfur dioxide. Iron and other oxides produced in roasting are also removed along with siliceous slag during smelting. A matte obtained after smelting usually contains impure nickel-iron-copper sulfides and sulfur. The molten matte is treated with silica and an air blower in a converter in the Bessemerizing stage to remove all remaining iron and sulfur.
Copper-nickel matte obtained in this stage is allowed to cool slowly over a few days to separate mineral crystals of copper sulfide, nickel sulfide and nickel-copper alloy. The cool matte is pulverized to isolate sulfides of nickel and copper by froth flotation. Nickel-copper alloy is extracted by magnetic separation. Nickel metal is obtained from the nickel sulfide by electrolysis using crude nickel sulfide cast into anodes and nickel-plated stainless steel cathodes.
Alternatively, nickel sulfide is roasted to nickel oxide, which then is reduced to crude nickel and is electrorefined as above.
Two other refining processes are also frequently employed. One involves hydrometallurgical refining in which sulfide concentrates are leached with ammonia solution to convert the copper, nickel, and cobalt sulfides into their complex amines. Copper is precipitated from this solution upon heating. Under such conditions, the sulfide-amine mixture of nickel and cobalt are oxidized to their sulfates. The sulfates then are reduced to metallic nickel and cobalt by heating with hydrogen at elevated temperatures under pressure. The metals are obtained in their powder form.
The more common carbonyl refining process involves reaction of crude nickel with carbon monoxide under pressure at 100°C to form nickel tetracarbonyl, Ni(CO)4. The liquid tetracarbonyl upon heating at 300°C decomposes to nickel metal and carbon monoxide. Very pure nickel can be obtained by the carbonyl refining processes, as no other metal forms a similar carbonyl under these conditions.
ChEBI: Chemical element (nickel group element atom) with atomic number 28.
Flammable/combustible material. May ignite on contact with moist air or moisture. May burn rapidly with flare-burning effect. Some react vigorously or explosively on contact with water. Some may decompose explosively when heated or involved in a fire. May re-ignite after fire is extinguished. Runoff may create fire or explosion hazard. Containers may explode when heated.
Nickel catalyst, is extremely fine powdered nickel. Nickel is grayish colored. Insoluble in water. Nickel catalyst is used to promote the chemical action in manufacturing synthetics and to process vegetable oil and petroleum. If exposed to air or moisture, Nickel may become hot enough to ignite. Nickel is insoluble in water and does not react with larger volumes of water.
Skin contact can cause dermatitis and a type of chronic eczema, known as “nickel itch”, caused by hypersensitivity reactions of nickel on the skin (Patnaik, P. 1999. A Comprehensive Guide to the Hazardous Properties of Chemical Substances, 2nd ed. pp. 621-622, New York: John Wiley & Sons.) Although oral toxicity of the metal is very low, ingestion may cause hyperglycemia and depression of the central nervous system. Chronic inhalation of nickel dust can cause lung and sinus cancers in humans. Nickel and certain of its compounds are listed by IARC under Group 2B carcinogens as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” (International Agency for Research on Cancer. 1990. IARC Monograph, Vol. 49: Geneva.)
At ordinary temperatures, bulk nickel in compact form has no perceptible reactivity with air or water. However, in finely-divided state, the metal reacts readily and can be pyrophoric under certain conditions. When heated in air at 400°C or with steam, nickel converts to its oxide, NiO.
When heated with bromine vapors or chlorine gas, nickel catches fire forming nickel bromide, NiBr2, and yellow nickel chloride, NiCl2, respectively. Finely divided nickel combines with carbon monoxide to form zero valent nickel tetracarbonyl, Ni(CO)4. The reaction occurs at 50°C and one atmosphere, although it is usually carried out at 200°C under high CO pressure between 100 to 400 atm for high yield of carbonyl, and to prevent product decomposition. Carbon monoxide at ordinary pressure may be passed over freshly reduced metal to form the tetracarbonyl.
Finely divided nickel absorbs a large volume of hydrogen at high temperatures. Even at ordinary temperatures, considerable occlusion of hydrogen occurs on to the metal surface and no definite composition of any hydride formed is known. The metal activates molecular hydrogen to its atomic state, contributing to its catalytic action in hydrogenation of unsaturated compounds.
Dilute mineral acids attack nickel to a varying extent. The metal dissolves readily in dilute nitric acid. Evaporation of the solution forms emerald green crystals of nickel nitrate hexahydrate, Ni(NO3)2•6H2O.
Actions of dilute hydrochloric and sulfuric acid on nickel are relatively slow: slower than on iron. Concentrated nitric acid passivates the metal, oxidizing it and forming a protective film on its surface which prevents any further reaction.
Nickel is stable in caustic alkalies. At moderate temperatures, it decomposes gaseous ammonia into hydrogen and nitrogen. Nickel combines with sulfur, phosphorus, carbon, arsenic, antimony, and aluminum at elevated temperatures. Fusion of nickel powder with molten sulfur yields nickel sulfide, NiS. Reaction with aluminum can be explosive at 1,300°C, forming nickel- aluminum intermetallic products of varying compositions.
Nickel powder combines with carbon dioxide in ammonia solution forming nickel carbonate. Boiling the solution to expel ammonia precipitates pure carbonate, NiCO3.
Fine nickel powder reacts with sulfamic acid in hot aqueous solution under controlled conditions, forming nickel sulfamate tetrahydrate, Ni(SO3NH2)2•4H2O, used in electroplating baths.
The most important applications of nickel metal involve its use in numerous alloys. Such alloys are used to construct various equipment, reaction vessels, plumbing parts, missile, and aerospace components. Such nickel-based alloys include Monel, Inconel, Hastelloy, Nichrome, Duranickel, Udinet, Incoloy and many other alloys under various other trade names. The metal itself has some major uses. Nickel anodes are used for nickel plating of many base metals to enhance their resistance to corrosion. Nickel-plated metals are used in various equipment, machine parts, printing plates, and many household items such as scissors, keys, clips, pins, and decorative pieces. Nickel powder is used as porous electrodes in storage batteries and fuel cells.
Another major industrial use of nickel is in catalysis. Nickel and raney nickel are used in catalytic hydrogenation or dehydrogenation of organic compounds including olefins, fats, and oils.
Fire will produce irritating, corrosive and/or toxic gases. Inhalation of decomposition products may cause severe injury or death. Contact with substance may cause severe burns to skin and eyes. Runoff from fire control may cause pollution.