Nickel alloys are found in a wide variety of equipment spanning multiple industries.
Nickel is a highly versatile material exhibiting several critical properties that make it ideal for industrial applications. Highly ductile, nickel is a highly versatile material that will alloy with most metals. It’s well-suited as an alloying element because it can be used to alter other metals’ properties.
Nickel is used widely to create various stainless-steel grades that resist corrosion and endure high temperatures, making them ideal for use in chemical plants where exposure to caustic substances occurs.
Enhancements that nickel provides when added to other materials, like titanium, copper, and iron, include:
- Improved versatility
- Increased toughness
- Added corrosion resistance
- Enhanced oxidation resistance
- Improved strength at higher/lower temperatures
- Increased magnetic properties
- Enhanced electronic properties
Nickel alloys perform well at temperatures above 1832°F (1000°C). That makes them ideal for harsh environments. They also offer excellent oxidation resistance at high temperatures. Yet, they still maintain quality weldability, workability, and ductility while offering extended service life.
Nickel alloys have an average life span of 25 to 35 years and are also highly recyclable. In fact, they’re among the most recyclable materials in the world. Half of the nickel in stainless steel, for example, comes from recycled nickel materials.
Common Types of Nickel Alloys
Nickel is versatile enough to be alloyed with most materials. The alloy definition of these alloys is one in which nickel is the primary element. Alloying with nickel can produce desired characteristics, including lower thermal expansion coefficients.
Below we describe the most commonly available nickel alloy types.
- Nickel-iron alloys
- Nickel-copper alloys
- Nickel-molybdenum alloys
- Nickel-chromium alloys
- Nickel-chromium-Iron alloys
- Nickel-chromium-Molybdenum alloys
- Nickel-chromium-cobalt alloys
- Nickel-titanium alloys
Suppliers of nickel alloys offer them various form options including angles, tubing, bars, rods, plates, flanges, forgings; and pipe and pipe fittings. Additional material form options are forged rings, billets, or blocks may be available from suppliers as needed by quote.
Nickel Alloy Properties
Nickel (NI) has a silvery-white appearance, with a face-centered cubic crystalline structure. Magnetic at room temperature, it also has a Curie temperature of 487°F (253°C), a melting point of 2647°F (1453°C), and a density of 8.90 g/cm3 @ 25° C.
Nickel alloys are resistant to softening and to metals loss at high temperatures from oxidation, sulfidation, or carburization. Nickel-based alloys come in three basic categories: high temperature, corrosion resistance, and electrical conductivity.
Nominal composition of various nickel alloys:
|Alloy||UNS||% Ni||% Cr||% Fe||% Mo||% Cu||% Co||% Other|
|601||N06601||60||23||bal||Al – 1.3|
|X-750||N07750||70||15||7||Ti – 2.5
Al – 0.7
Nb – 1.0
|800||N08800||32||21||45||W – 3.5|
|686||N06686||bal||21||2 max||16||W – 3.7|
|617||N06617||44.5 min||22||3 max||9||12|
|HR-160||N12160||bal||28||3.5 max||30||Si – 2.75|
|Nitinol||N01555||55||Ti – 45|
High-temperature nickel alloys offer unique strength and/or corrosion-resistant properties at elevated temperatures. Nickel content ranges from 25% to 60%, with measurable amounts of chromium, molybdenum, columbium, and titanium. High-temperature, heat-resistant nickel alloys are often used where high surface stability and creep resistance are needed. The most popular use for the high-temperature nickel alloys is in gas turbine (turbojet) aircraft engines.
Nickel alloys resist corrosion because they oxidize at slow rate at room temperature and because they feature a protective shell created by an oxide film. These alloys are routinely used in chemical processing, heat treating, pollution, and waste control applications. Nickel alloys that conduct electricity are well-suited for electronics and applications involving contact with electricity as well as TV interiors and lightbulbs.
Where Does Nickel Come From
Nickel occurs naturally in the Earth’s crust as impure ore. It’s then mined, extracted, and refined. The most prolific source of nickel is Russia. Additional sources of nickel are Austria, Indonesia, and Canada. Some think that the large deposits of nickel found in Canada’s Sudbury region come from an ancient meteorite collision with Earth. Nickel often exists naturally as either hydrous nickel silicates or nickel-iron sulfides.
Much of the Earth’s nickel is found in the planet’s core. Generally speaking, today’s mining company’s use traditional mining techniques, including open pit and underground extract the ore from about two million tons of nickel used annually. The ore usually contains about 3% of nickel. They then separate the nickel content from the worthless material using a combination of modern mechanical and metallurgical techniques.
Mining companies crush and grind the ore after extracting it. The ore may often be mixed with water using modern hydro-metallurgical techniques. The companies then add air bubbles, which promotes the flotation of the desirable metal materials to the top, where it is recovered. After applying high-temperature pyro-metallurgical processes, the mining companies use several additional refining steps to increase purity. About 60% of the world nickel ends up in stainless steel. Recycling stainless steel is the most common way that we recycle nickel.
Where/How Do We Use Nickel Alloys?
Nickel is a vital metal in many industries. It’s also highly versatile and will alloy with most materials. Complete solubility exists between nickel and copper, while broad solubility ranges between iron, chromium, and nickel make possible many alloy combinations. Nickel’s high versatility, combined with its outstanding heat and corrosion resistance, makes it useful in a broad range of applications.
The majority of nickel and nickel alloys involve heat resistance and/or corrosion resistance. Some of these applications include:
- Aircraft gas turbines
- Steam turbine power plants
- Medical applications
- Nuclear power systems
- Chemical and petrochemical industries
- Heating and Resistance parts
- Isolators and Actuators for communication
- Automotive Spark plugs
- Welding consumables
- Power Cables
Nickel alloys are used in other applications for the unique physical properties of special-purpose nickel-based or high-nickel alloys. These include:
- Nickel-chromium alloys
- Nickel-chromium-Iron alloys
- Electrical resistance alloys
- Copper-nickel alloys for heating cables
- Thermocouple alloys for sensors and cables
- Nickel copper alloys for weaving-knitting
- Soft magnetic alloys
- Controlled-expansion alloys
- Welding filler materials
- Dumet wire for glass to metal seal
- Nickel-plated steel alloys
- Lighting alloys
Nickel alloys also find their way into a wide variety of products, including plumbing, pumps, valves, piping systems, processing equipment, turbines, assemblies, tools, chemical processing equipment, oil and gas well piping. Nickel alloys are also ideal for cell phones, food preparation, medical, and lab equipment, pharmaceuticals, building materials, aircraft and power turbines, and nuclear power systems, as well as aircraft and transportation vehicles.
Nickel superalloys benefit industries like energy, power, chemical, and petrochemical. These materials present superior oxidation resistance and high-temperature strength in critical applications. Nickel superalloys are also used extensively in exceptionally hot environments, as in gas turbines for power generation equipment and aircraft.
Superalloys are produced by adding balanced amounts of elements, such as chromium, aluminum, cobalt, and titanium, to create optimal directionally solidified or single-crystal structures. The nickel gives the material a strength that exceeds regular steel.
Tech Steel & Materials offers nickel alloys in various shapes and parts – rod, bar, wire, sheet, plate, strip, tube, pipe, castings, and forgings – for use in the aerospace, military, marine, and power plant industries.
If you have other questions regarding Nickel, feel free to contact us. Put our expertise in metals to work for you.