Nickel Alloys: Everything you need to knowJanuary 29th 2016
An alloy is a mixture of two elements, one of which at least is always a metal. Because alloys often have different properties to the metals they contain they are considered more useful than the pure metal alone. For example, alloys are usually harder than the metals they contain will be on their own.
Alloys often have different properties to the metals they contain, they are considered more useful than the pure metal alone. For example, alloys can be harder than the metals they contain will be on their own.
A common element used in alloys is Nickel. Nickel is known as a versatile element that can be used in many ways. Nickel is widely used due to its anti-corrosive, high temperature resistance, and its compatibility when alloyed with other metals.
What is Nickel?
Nickel is a naturally occurring, silver-white metallic element and is the fifth most common on earth, occurring most extensively in the Earth’s crust. Nickel's key characteristics include a high melting point of 1453ºC, strong resistance to corrosion and oxidation, ductile, magnetic at room temperature, catalytic properties and alloys readily.
There are approximately 3000 nickel containing alloys in everyday use, with around 90% of new nickel sold each year going into alloys. The majority of this is used to make stainless steel with the rest going to other steel and non-ferrous alloys, plating and other uses which can include coins, electronics and batteries.
Nickel use grows by about 4% each year with the largest growth seen in rapidly industrialising countries, particularly in Asia. This is because nickel containing materials are essential for infrastructure and industry.
Nickel containing products typically have a life of 25-35 years, although they can last longer than this. At the end of their life they can be collected and recycled for future use and Nickel is one of the most recycled materials globally with around half the stainless steel in use today coming from recycled sources.
Nickel's Properties include:
- High melting point (1453°C)
- Is magnetic at room temperature
- Catalytic properties
- Resists corrosion and oxidation
- Highly ductile
- Alloys easily
Types of Nickel Alloys
Nickel alloys are formed from the nickel metal being mixed with other metals. Nickel Boron is usually made up of approximately 95% Nickel and 5% boron. It is more environmentally friendly compared to other alloys, therefore is a great choice for sustainability-focused industries. Nickel Chrome (Ni chrome is Nickel & Chrome) are alloys made up of nickel, chromium, and often iron. Nickel Niobium is another alloy type where Niobium is used as an additive in nickel-, iron- or cobalt-based superalloys. It has a high melting point and is resistant to corrosion and oxidation. Discover a range of nickel alloys to find the right alloy for your project.
How Nickel is used
Nickel alloys can be found in a wide range of things including metal among industries including engineers, metal goods production, transport, construction, healthcare and electronics to name a few! Nickel alloys are particularly noted for their corrosion resistance, high temperature strength and magnetic and thermal expansion properties. The major types of alloys containing nickel include iron-nickel-chromium alloys, stainless steel, copper-nickel alloys, nickel-chromium alloys and magnetic alloys.
Train carriages use nickel containing stainless steel due to its resistance to corrosion, durability and strength. Its ability to absorb a high amount of energy upon impact and fire resistance makes it a preferred metal for train carriages due to the safety benefits it provides. This same type of stainless steel has also been used in building and construction for decades. Its strength and durability being two main reasons for its use.
Nickel alloys and nickel containing stainless steels are also used in the manufacturing of various medical equipment and machinery, such as tools for surgery. Due to the need to sterilise equipment in healthcare, nickel containing stainless steel is an ideal material to create equipment and devices.
Nickel and its compounds can be associated with toxicity, carcinogenicity and dermal sensitisation, with most of the risks seen in complex processes such as nickel production and refining. These risks are well known and suitably controlled by specific regulations in the workplace. The risks are not normally associated with the use of nickel or nickel containing alloys.
Nickel in the Oil, Gas and Power Industry
The production of oil takes place in a highly corrosive environment which means that the industry needs to use metals that are corrosion resistant. Nickel alloys provide this property and are used in the industry as a material for machines, tools or components which will be used in oil and gas production environments.
Commonly, most power stations burn fuel for heat to produce steam that then drives turbines. Materials containing nickel are used in these environments due to their resistance to corrosion and heat making them more durable during these processes. Boilers and heat exchangers are used in the generation of electricity from fossil fuels, therefore devices used during these processes need to be made up of durable and resistant metals for efficiency, safety and production. This is one reason why nickel alloys are often preferred in this industry, because nickel properties match these needs.
William Rowland deliver nickel alloys and alternative metal alloys across the world to companies working in aerospace, marine, construction, and more. Discuss your requirements with our metal traders today to find out how we can help and support you.