We’re fairly familiar with stainless steel and its uses, but nickel and nickel alloys are another vital type of metal and type of alloys that are used in our everyday lives. In fact, the use of nickel is increasing by 4% every year and nickel that also contains stainless steel is increasing by around 6%. We can find nickel in everything from our cell phones to our methods of transportation to how we prepare the food we eat. Commercially, the energy and nuclear power industries rely on nickel and nickel alloys, and it’s often found in turbines and medical instruments. But what are the benefits of nickel? Why is it so often used? Why are nickel alloys so vital to our society? We’ll address all of these issues below.
What Is Nickel and What are the Benefits of Using Nickel?
Nickel is a metal and an element. It’s a hard metal but can alloy with almost any other metal, which is how you get nickel aluminum bronze or nickel alloy steel. It’s a very versatile metal that has a high resistance to heat and corrosion, which makes it especially prized and useful among many different industries. Nickel also has useful and specific magnetic and electronic properties and is tough, as well as being stronger at higher or lower temperatures than other metals.
When alloyed, nickel is divided up into different types for various uses. For example, nickel 405 is made up of at least 63% nickel that’s alloyed with copper, iron, and a few other trace elements (such as silicon or sulfur). Nickel 405 is can be used in nuclear vessels, oil refinery piping, or sulfuric acid plants, among other places.
What are Alloys and What Do They Do?
An alloy is a metal that is a product of two or more metallic elements. Alloys are meant to be stronger or more corrosion resistant than regular metals. For example, aluminum bronze alloys are usually comprised of 9% to 12% aluminum and as much as 6% iron and nickel. As another example, aluminum alloy 2014 is one of the strongest heat treatable products on the market, and is used heavily as a forging alloy for aircraft parts. Aluminum alone wouldn’t be able to achieve that, but as an alloy, it can withstand more heat.
Alloy steels can be broken down into four different classes. These are structural steels, tool and die steels, magnetic alloys, and then stainless and heat-resisting steels. In essence, we can “mix and match” metals to get the desired result we want, whether it’s to make a metal lighter, stronger, more heat resistant, or corrosion resistant.
Steel, brass, pewter, and sterling silver are all examples of common alloys that we use every day, in capacities such as silverware, jewelry, locks, heating pipes, and car parts, but there are hundreds more alloys made and used on a regular basis.
Why Are Nickel Alloys So Important?
Nickel alloys are prized because they’re extremely resistant to corrosion, can withstand high temperatures, and have unique magnetic and thermal expansion qualities. The most common types of nickel alloys are magnetic alloys, copper-nickel alloys, nickel-chromium alloys, stainless steels, and low expansion alloys.
Engineers, architects, and others rely on nickel alloys to get the job done. For example, monel 400, a type of nickel alloy can keep its shape and strength up to 2,372 degrees Fahrenheit. Nickel is also often used as submarine hulls. Nickel alloys are especially crucial here, because submarines must be at least 100 meters under the Sonic Layer Depth to avoid sonar detection, meaning the metal must be extremely strong to avoid buckling.
Nickel alloys and their versatility make them indispensable elements in our everyday lives that we use commercially and privately.