We explain what nickel is, how it was discovered, how it is obtained, used and other properties. Also, allergy to nickel. Nickel is a metallic element with atomic number 28.
What is nickel?
Nickel is a metallic chemical element, located in group 10 of the Periodic Table and represented by the symbol Ni . Its atomic number is 28 and it is part of the so-called “transition metals”, such as zinc, cadmium or mercury.
Along with copper, it is one of the metals best known and used by humanity throughout its history. Nickel has five isotopes in nature, and it is the lightest ( 58 Ni) and also the most abundant (68%), and eighteen radioactive isotopes, of which 59 Ni is the one with the longest half-life (76,000 years). ). The half-life is the time required for half of a sample of radioactive nuclei to decay.
Its name goes back to the German word Kupfernickel (whose origins are debated), which means “false copper.” Some explanations attribute it to the nickname that the miners gave to the devil (“old Nick” or Nikolaus ), since they assumed that nickel, similar in appearance to copper, was a form of deception for the greedy.
Discovery of nickel
Nickel has been used since ancient times, both in the East and the West.
Nickel was known to humanity since the 4th century BC. C. It is known that its discovery was simultaneous with that of copper, since it is frequently found in minerals in which the latter metal is abundant.
For example, it was used in ancient Mesopotamia (Syria) where bronzes that have levels greater than 2% nickel content were found. Many ancient Chinese manuscripts suggest that the “white copper” used in the East between 1700 and 1400 BC. C. was actually nothing but nickel.
Importance of nickel
Nickel was despised for a long time, nicknamed “false copper” and considered a useless or little valuable metal. Today that has changed. Although it is certainly not a precious metal, it is one of the most in demand in the industry for the manufacture of coins and as a material for alloys with iron, silver and other metals.
In addition, it is essential for microbial metabolism, since 87% of hydrogenases, enzymes dedicated to the oxidation of hydrogen in microbes, contain high percentages of nickel as an active component.
The economy of New Caledonia is based mainly on the exploitation of Nickel.
Nickel is the second most abundant metal on Earth (iron is the first). In fact, the core of our planet has very pure levels of both metals.
It is common to find it inside certain meteorites, alloyed with iron and forming the minerals kamacite and taenite. Furthermore, in combination with other metals it can be found in the minerals garnierite, millerite, pentlandite, nickelin and pyrrhotite.
The main nickel mines in the world are located in Canada, Cuba and Russia, countries that satisfy 70% of the world’s demand for this metal. Other important producers are Bolivia, Colombia, New Caledonia and the Dominican Republic.
Nickel has a typical yellowish white color, capable of being confused with copper (as was the case in the past). Many of its properties are similar to those of iron, a metal with which it shares an enormous density, as well as with osmium and iridium.
It is a good conductor of electricity and heat, ferromagnetic at room temperature. Since it is extremely ductile and malleable, it is rolled, polished and forged with great ease.
Its usual oxidation state is +2, although it has also been seen in other states (0, +1 and +3), and it is generally resistant to corrosion, without suffering the so-called “galleo” effect. At the same time, it is carcinogenic and highly toxic.
Physically, nickel has several interesting characteristics and is useful in a variety of applications. The following is an explanation of the characteristics of nickel:
1. Color and Appearance
Nickel is a type of metal that has a silvery white color that tends to be shiny and has a slight golden luster. When polished or buffed to a surface, nickel gives an attractive metallic luster and shine.
2. Level of Violence
Nickel is a relatively hard metal, but not as hard as metals such as steel or iron. Its hardness is usually at level 4 on the Mohs scale. The hardness of nickel provides resistance and durability to this metal.
3. Melting Point
The melting point of nickel is one of the highest among the chemical elements. Its melting point reaches 1,455 degrees Celsius (2,651 degrees Fahrenheit). Its high melting point makes nickel resistant to high temperatures.
4. Magnetic Properties
Nickel is a type of metal that has magnetic properties, which means it can be attracted by magnetic fields and can also become a magnet itself.
5. Reactivity and Corrosion Resistance
Nickel has resistance to corrosion and oxidation. When exposed to air, nickel forms an oxidized surface layer, which helps protect it from corrosion.