Skip to Main Content

About Nickel

Nickel Bohr

Despite being extremely common, nickel spent centuries of human history narrowly escaping recognition as a unique metal. As a component of the meteorites that were the only source of iron before its extraction from ore was commonplace, nickel was found in every iron object produced prior to the iron age. As early as 1700 BCE, metalworkers from one Chinese province were highly regarded for paktong, or white copper--a metal smelted from local ores, with a small addition of zinc added for workability--but it was not recognized that the unusual color of the alloy resulted from the high content of a third metal, nickel, in the copper ores. Other ancient societies similarly used naturally occurring copper-nickel ores to produce metal for used for coinage, but also failed to distinguish the metal clearly from pure copper.

It wasn’t until 1751 that Baron Axel Fredrik Cronstedt extracted a white metal from a mineral known as kupfernickel. Frustrated by their inability to extract copper from what they thought was copper ore, medieval German miners had given this mineral its name: kupfer from copper, and nickel from Old Nick, an old name for the devil, whose minions they blamed for their misfortune. Thus, the name Cronstedt gave to his newly discovered metal nickel referenced the host mineral, and by extension, its mythologized demonic origins.

At the time of Baron Cronstedt’s discovery, his new metal was still considered about as useless as the miners had found its native ore, but in 1823, that changed abruptly. Europeans had been importing the Chinese alloy "paktong" (cupronickel) for two centuries, and now finally several German scientists had painstakingly recreated it and developed a functional production process. This European version of cupronickel came to be known as German silver, nickel silver, and by a number of trade names. German silver was valued for its resemblance to silver as well as its hardness and corrosion resistance, and was sought after for both decorative and functional applications, including the production of silverware, musical instruments, plumbing fixtures, and coins. The exact formulation of copper-nickel alloys has varied somewhat over time and by application, but they are still used widely.

Attractive and functional alloys remain the largest use of nickel. Nickel is a key component of some formulations of stainless steel and cast iron, as well as some superalloys designed for use under extreme conditions. Additionally, Alnico alloys containing nickel make strong permanent magnets used in a variety of industrial and consumer applications. Nickel is also widely used as a thin layer plated on other metals through either electroplating or electroless methods. Either form of nickel plating provides increased resistance to wear and corrosion, as nickel is very hard and develops a thin oxide coating upon exposure to air, preventing further corrosion. One key use of the electroless process specifically is in the production of hard-drive disks, where the nickel layer provides an extremely smooth surface in preparation for the deposition of magnetic recording layers.

The other major use for nickel is in batteries and fuel cells. A variety of battery designs, including those exploiting nickel-cadmium, nickel-iron, nickel-hydrogen, and nickel-metal-hydride chemistry, use nickel as a cathode. In alkaline fuel cells, nickel foam or nickel mesh are used as gas diffusion electrodes. Additionally, nickel or nickel alloys such as Raney nickel are used as catalysts in industrial chemistry and organic synthesis, and nickel is sometimes added to glasses or ceramic glazes to produce a bright green color.

Nickel is mined from two types of ore deposits: laterites or magmatic sulfide deposits. The process used to refine nickel involves traditional roasting and reduction of concentrated ores that produce a metal of 75% or greater purity. In some applications such as stainless steel, this relatively low purity may be sufficient and no further requirement is required, but a variety of purification techniques exist to produce higher purity metals. The Mond process has been used since the late nineteenth century to produce nickel metal of 4N purity or higher from nickel oxides.

+ Open All
- Close All

Nickel is extensively alloyed with iron, chromium, molybdenum, and tungsten to produce stainless steel and other corrosion-resistant alloys. Nickel's high electrical High Purity (99.999%) Nickel Oxide (NiO) Powderconductivity lends itself to many electronics applications. For example, it is the basis of the nickel hydride battery and is an ideal component for ceramic anode formulations used in oxygen generation and solid oxide fuel cell applications. Nickel is also used as a pigment; its addition to High Purity (99.999%) Nickel (Ni) Sputtering Targetglass and ceramic glazes results in a bright green color. Nickel is available as metal and compounds with purities from 99% to 99.999% (ACS grade to ultra-high purity). Elemental or metallic forms include pellets, rod, wire and granules for evaporation source material purposes. Nickel nanoparticles and nanopowders are also available. Nickel oxides are available in powder and dense pellet form for such uses as optical coating and thin film applications. Oxides tend to be insoluble. Nickel fluorides are another insoluble form for uses in which oxygen is undesirable such as metallurgy, chemical and physical vapor deposition and in some optical coatings. Nickel is also available in soluble forms including chlorides, nitrates and acetates. These compounds can be manufactured as solutions at specified stoichiometries.

Nickel Properties

Nickel(Ni) atomic and molecular weight, atomic number and elemental symbolNickel is a Block D, Group 4, Period 4 element. The number of electrons in each of nickel's shells is 2, 8, 16, 2 and its electron configuration is [Ar]3d8 4s2. Elemental NickelNickel Bohr ModelThe nickel atom has a radius of and its Van der Waals radius is In its elemental form, CAS 7440-02-0, nickel has a lustrous metallic silver appearance. Nickel is sometimes found free in nature but is more commonly found in ores. The bulk of mined nickel comes from laterite and magmatic sulfide ores. Nickel was first discovered by Alex Constedt in 1751. The name originates from the German word 'kupfernickel' which means false copper from the illusory copper color of the ore.

Symbol: Ni
Atomic Number: 28
Atomic Weight: 58.6934
Element Category: transition metal
Group, Period, Block: 10, 4, d
Color: lustrous, metallic, silvery tinge
Other Names: Niccolum, Nichel, Níquel
Melting Point: 1453.0 °C, 2647.4 °F, 1726.15 K
Boiling Point: 2732.0 °C, 4949.6 °F, 3005.15 K
Density: 8.902g/cm3
Liquid Density @ Melting Point: 7.81 g·cm3
Density @ 20°C: 8.91 g/cm3
Density of Solid: 8908 kg·m3
Specific Heat: 0.106 Cal/g/ K @ 25°C
Superconductivity Temperature: N/A
Triple Point: N/A
Critical Point: N/A
Heat of Fusion (kJ·mol-1): 17.6
Heat of Vaporization (kJ·mol-1): 374.8
Heat of Atomization (kJ·mol-1): 427.659
Thermal Conductivity: 0.909 W/cm/ K @ 298.2  K
Thermal Expansion: (25 °C) 13.4 µm·m-1·K-1
Electrical Resistivity: 6.84 nΩ-cm @ 20°C
Tensile Strength: N/A
Molar Heat Capacity: 26.07 J·mol-1·K-1
Young's Modulus: 200 GPa
Shear Modulus: 76 GPa
Bulk Modulus: 180 GPa
Poisson Ratio: 0.31
Mohs Hardness: 4
Vickers Hardness: 638 MPa
Brinell Hardness: 700 MPa
Speed of Sound: (r.t.) 4900 m·s-1
Pauling Electronegativity: 1.91
Sanderson Electronegativity: 1.94
Allred Rochow Electronegativity: 1.75
Mulliken-Jaffe Electronegativity: N/A
Allen Electronegativity: N/A
Pauling Electropositivity: 2.09
Reflectivity (%): 72
Refractive Index: N/A
Electrons: 28
Protons: 28
Neutrons: 31
Electron Configuration: [Ar]3d8 4s2
Atomic Radius: 124 pm
Atomic Radius,
non-bonded (Å):
Covalent Radius: 124±4 pm
Covalent Radius (Å): 1.17
Van der Waals Radius: 163 pm
Oxidation States: 4, 3, 2, 1, -1 (mildly basic oxide)
Phase: Solid
Crystal Structure: Cubic
Magnetic Ordering: ferromagnetic
Electron Affinity (kJ·mol-1) 111.498
1st Ionization Energy: 737.13 kJ·mol-1
2nd Ionization Energy: 1753.04 kJ·mol-1
3rd Ionization Energy: 3395.34 kJ·mol-1
CAS Number: 7440-02-0
EC Number: 231-111-4
MDL Number: MFCD00011137
Beilstein Number: N/A
SMILES Identifier: [Ni]
InChI Identifier: InChI=1S/Ni
PubChem CID: 935
ChemSpider ID: 910
Earth - Total: 1.82% 
Mercury - Total: 3.66%
Venus - Total: 1.77%
Earth - Seawater (Oceans), ppb by weight: 2
Earth - Seawater (Oceans), ppb by atoms: 0.21
Earth -  Crust (Crustal Rocks), ppb by weight: 90000
Earth -  Crust (Crustal Rocks), ppb by atoms: 32000
Sun - Total, ppb by weight: 80000
Sun - Total, ppb by atoms: 2000
Stream, ppb by weight: 0.3
Stream, ppb by atoms: 0.01
Meterorite (Carbonaceous), ppb by weight: 13000000
Meterorite (Carbonaceous), ppb by atoms: 4400000
Typical Human Body, ppb by weight: 100
Typical Human Body, ppb by atom: 11
Universe, ppb by weight: 60000
Universe, ppb by atom: 1000
Discovered By: Axel Fredrik Cronstedt
Discovery Date: 1751
First Isolation: Axel Fredrik Cronstedt (1751)

Health, Safety & Transportation Information for Nickel

Nickel and its compounds are considered to be carcinogenic. Nickel carbonyl is a very toxic gas. Safety data for Nickel and its compounds can vary widely depending on the form. For potential hazard information, toxicity, and road, sea and air transportation limitations, such as DOT Hazard Class, DOT Number, EU Number, NFPA Health rating and RTECS Class, please see the specific material or compound referenced in the Products tab. The below information applies to elemental (metallic) Nickel.

Safety Data
Material Safety Data Sheet MSDS
Signal Word Danger
Hazard Statements H317-H351-H372-H412
Hazard Codes Xn
Risk Codes 10-40-43
Safety Precautions 16-36/37
RTECS Number N/A
Transport Information UN 3089 4.1/PG 2
WGK Germany 2
Globally Harmonized System of
Classification and Labelling (GHS)
Exclamation Mark-Acute Toxicity Health Hazard

Nickel Isotopes

Naturally occurring nickel is composed of five stable isotopes; 58Ni, 60Ni, 61Ni, 62Ni and 64Ni. 58Ni is the most abundant (68.077%).

Nuclide Isotopic Mass Half-Life Mode of Decay Nuclear Spin Magnetic Moment Binding Energy (MeV) Natural Abundance
(% by atom)
48Ni 48.01975(54)# 10# ms [>500 ns] Unknown 0+ N/A 338.66 -
49Ni 49.00966(43)# 13(4) ms [12(+5-3) ms] Unknown 7/2-# N/A 356.05 -
50Ni 49.99593(28)# 9.1(18) ms ß+ to 50Cu 0+ N/A 377.18 -
51Ni 50.98772(28)# 30# ms [>200 ns] ß+ to 51Cu 7/2-# N/A 392.71 -
52Ni 51.97568(9)# 38(5) ms ß+ to 52Cu; ß+ + p to 51Fe 0+ N/A 411.97 -
53Ni 52.96847(17)# 45(15) ms ß+ to 53Cu; ß+ + p to 52Fe (7/2-)# N/A 426.57 -
54Ni 53.95791(5) 104(7) ms ß+ to 54Cu 0+ N/A 444.89 -
55Ni 54.951330(12) 204.7(17) ms ß+ to 55Cu 7/2- N/A 458.56 -
56Ni 55.942132(12) 6.075(10) d ß+ to 56Cu 0+ N/A 475.02 -
57Ni 56.9397935(19) 35.60(6) h EC to 57Co 3/2- 0.88 485.9 -
58Ni 57.9353429(7) Observationally Stable - 0+ N/A 497.7 68.0769
59Ni 58.9343467(7) 7.6(5)E+4 y EC to 59 Co 3/2- N/A 506.71 -
60Ni 59.9307864(7) STABLE - 0+ N/A 518.52 26.2231
61Ni 60.9310560(7) STABLE - 3/2- -0.75002 525.67 1.1399
62Ni 61.9283451(6) STABLE - 0+ N/A 536.54 3.6345
63Ni 62.9296694(6) 100.1(20) y ß- to 63Cu 1/2- N/A 543.69 -
64Ni 63.9279660(7) STABLE - 0+ N/A 553.63 0.9256
65Ni 64.9300843(7) 2.5172(3) h ß- to 65Cu 5/2- 0.69 558.91 -
66Ni 65.9291393(15) 54.6(3) h ß- to 66Cu 0+ N/A 567.92 -
67Ni 66.931569(3) 21(1) s ß- to 67Cu 1/2- N/A 574.14 -
68Ni 67.931869(3) 29(2) s ß- to 68Cu 0+ N/A 582.22 -
69Ni 68.935610(4) 11.5(3) s ß- to 69Cu 9/2+ N/A 586.57 -
70Ni 69.93650(37) 6.0(3) s ß- to 70Cu 0+ N/A 593.72 -
71Ni 70.94074(40) 2.56(3) s ß- to 71Cu 1/2-# N/A 598.07 -
72Ni 71.94209(47) 1.57(5) s ß- to 72Cu; ß- + n to 71Cu 0+ N/A 604.28 -
73Ni 72.94647(32)# 0.84(3) s ß- to 73Cu; ß- + n to 72Cu (9/2+) N/A 608.64 -
74Ni 73.94807(43)# 0.68(18) s ß- to 74Cu; ß- + n to 73Cu 0+ N/A 614.85 -
75Ni 74.95287(43)# 0.6(2) s ß- to 75Cu; ß- + n to 74Cu (7/2+)# N/A 619.2 -
76Ni 75.95533(97)# 470(390) ms [0.24(+55-24) s] ß- to 76Cu; ß- + n to 75Cu 0+ N/A 624.49 -
77Ni 76.96055(54)# 300# ms [>300 ns] ß- to 77Cu 9/2+# N/A 627.91 -
78Ni 77.96318(118)# 120# ms [>300 ns] ß- to 78Cu 0+ N/A 633.19 -