Aluminized steels are steels that have been hot-dip coated with pure aluminum or aluminum-silicon alloys. This hot-dip coating process is termed hot-dip aluminizing (HAD)...
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This article will take an in-depth look at nickel metal and its uses.
The article will cover topics such as:
This chapter will discuss what nickel metal is, its production, and how it functions.
Metals are a group of substances that are malleable, ductile, and have high heat and electrical conductivity. They can be grouped into five categories with nickel falling in the category known as transition metals. Nickel is a naturally occurring metallic element that is shiny and silvery-white with a gold tinge. Its atomic weight is 58.71, its atomic number is 28, a symbol Ni, and five stable isotopes. It is solid at room temperature, has a boiling point of 2730°C and a melting point of 1455°C. It‘s ferromagnetic, hard, corrosion and rust resistant, and ductile. Since nickel occurs naturally it has to be mined from the earth.
The metal is obtained through a process called extractive metallurgy. Extractive metallurgy is removing a desired metal from its ore and refining it in order to make the extracted metal purer. An ore is a naturally occurring rock, deep in the earth‘s surface that contains one or more valuable minerals that can be mined, refined, and sold for profit. Ore usually contains metals. Nickel has two main types of ore namely: laterites and magmatic sulfide.
As stated above Nickel has two main types of ore deposits: laterites which are composed mainly of nickeliferous limonite and garnierite, and magmatic sulfide deposits of which the main ore mineral is pentlandite.
Extractive metallurgy is the process used to extract the raw metal from its ore. The most common way the metal is extracted is through pyrometallurgical extraction, which involves application of high temperatures to allow chemical reactions to take place. The laterite ore is usually obtained via open cut mining methods. Open cut mining is a form of surface mining where the ore is extracted from an open-air pit whereas the sulfide ore, which is usually found combined with copper, is mined underground. Equipment used for laterite ore mining include big shovels, draglines, and front-end loaders.
After mining the sulfide ores, they are crushed and ground to separate the nickel from the waste materials by a process called selective floatation. During this process the ore is mixed with reagents and then agitated using mechanical and pneumatic devices that produce air bubbles. Sulfide particles, since they are light by nature, adhere to the surfaces of the air bubbles as they rise through the mixture.
They are collected and contain six to twelve percent of nickel. Due to the magnetic nature of some of the nickel containing sulfides magnetic separators are used as well. Sometimes they are used in place of flotation and at times in combination with flotation. The waste materials often undergo a second cleaning step before being thrown away. Some sulfide ores contain nearly equal amounts of copper and nickel as a result a second selective flotation process has to be done resulting in a low nickel copper concentrate and a separate nickel concentrate.
Nickel concentrates are sometimes leached with sulfuric acid or ammonia. At times they may be dried and then smelted in flash processes. Current methods are primarily flash and electric smelting. These methods involve placing the ore in a furnace that has preheated oxygen, this will cause the iron and sulfide to oxide resulting in 25 to 45 percent nickel.
This nickel-iron sulfide is known as matte. In the final stage oxygen is injected into the molten bath. This is done to eliminate any remaining traces of iron and sulfide. The iron combines with the oxygen to form an oxide. This oxide combines with silica flux to form a slag which is removed resulting in a nickel matte of about 70 to 75 percent nickel.
This entire process is done in a rotating converter. Some of the heat required for the smelting process of sulfide ores comes from the reaction of oxygen with iron and sulfur in the ore.
Nickel from laterite ores does not contain any sulfur. However they have large amounts of water as moisture and also in the form of hydroxides. Since lateritic ores cannot produce the same reaction temperatures as those of sulfide ores, energy from other sources is used for the drying and smelting process. The drying process is done in order to remove moisture from the ore. The process is carried out in a large-kiln furnace.
The nickel oxide obtained from the process stated above is reduced in order to obtain the nickel metal. Electric furnaces that have a rating of 45 to 50 megavolt-amperes are usually used for the smelting process. The operating temperature of these furnaces is 1360°C to 1610°C.
After mining nickel ore and the processing described above there remains a substance called nickel matte which usually contains 75 percent nickel. Carrying out further refinement processes can result in a purity as high as 95%. Ammonia pressure leech is a process whereby nickel is obtained from a solution using hydrogen reduction. This process is used to refine nickel obtained from sulfide ores. The sulfur in the ore forms ammonium sulfate, which is used as a fertilizer.
Other processes used include roasting the matte to produce high grade nickel oxides that are treated using a pressure leach. The solution used for this process is electro and carbonyl refined. In electrorefining an electrolytic cell is used for the refining process. Diaphragm compartments are used to prevent the movement of impurities from the anode to the cathode. This process results in a high quality nickel. In carbonyl refining, the matte is passed through carbon monoxide resulting in nickel and iron carbonyls.
After nickel has gone through the refining process it can be machined into a variety of shapes such as bars and rods, plates, sheets, and tubing. A variety of processes are used to produce these shapes and these are discussed in detail below:
This is the least common method used for nickel forming. It involved melting the nickel by subjecting it to very high temperatures and then shaping it by forcing the nickel through a die. This results in the formation of nickel sheets, bars, rods and tubing.
This method is more common for shaping nickel than nickel extrusion. There is no heat added to this process; instead the nickel tube or wire is drawn through a series of smaller dies in order to reduce its diameter. This process is used in the production of nickel tubes and wires.
This process uses an aqueous solution that contains a chemical reducing agent. A catalytic reduction process of nickel ions occurs in this solution. The ions are deposited without requiring electrical energy. The nickel ions deposited have a uniform size and shape. This is by far the most common way to shape nickel.
Customers and manufacturers must examine important factors when purchasing nickel to ensure that the nickel material purchased is the right shape and size for the job at hand. Important considerations to note include the expected time of exposure to harsh weather elements such as rain and heat, the strain and stress levels that the nickel will endure, the intended usage of the nickel, and the required dimensions of the nickel material. Another important factor to consider as well is the supplier of the nickel. It‘s essential for both customers and manufacturers to have lengthy conversations with a variety of suppliers in order to determine which supplier offers the best prices, lead times, good secondary services, great delivery policies and great customer service.
Due to its desirable characteristics, nickel is often combined with other elements to form alloys. Some alloying materials include but are not limited to: chromium, cobalt, copper, and iron. The most common alloy of nickel is stainless steel. It‘s mainly made up of iron, 18 percent chromium, and 8 percent nickel.
Nickel alloys can be classified into the following categories namely:
Some alloys and forms of nickel are listed below. It‘s important to note that each of the types and forms of nickel listed below fall into a category of nickel alloys listed above.
This type of nickel would have been finished using a wire brush or similar rough surface. This results in the nickel having tiny patterned lines but it still retains its shiny look. Brushed nickel is corrosion resistant however it tarnishes easily. Due to age and exposure, it can develop a milky white tarnish.
However this can be dealt with easily by cleaning the brushed nickel with a mild cleaner or a solution composed of water and white vinegar.
Brushed nickel is useful for making:
These nickel alloys are formed by melting the alloy and then pouring it into a mold. They are easier to mold than other alloys. They are resistant to heat, corrosion, and wear resistance and are well known for their high strength.
This nickel alloy contains nickel, copper, iron, and manganese. The content of copper in this alloy varies from 60 to 90 percent making it the main component in the alloy. The alloy has a silver color.
It‘s highly resistant to corrosion by seawater, has good thermal conductivity, extremely ductile, and good tensile strength. Uses of cupronickel are:
Inconel alloys contain nickel as the highest percentage of element used and chromium as the second largest element. These alloys are corrosion resistant, oxidation resistant, and suitable for use in extreme environments since they can withstand high stresses. Inconel alloys are difficult to machine and shape.
There are several types of Inconel alloys, some are listed below:
This is a nickel-iron alloy whose chief property is a low coefficient of thermal expansion. It contains 36% nickel and 64% iron.
It‘s mainly used in:
This alloy contains iron, nickel, cobalt and trace amounts of manganese, silicon, and carbon. One of its properties includes having a low coefficient of thermal expansion, this means that as temperature increases there‘s little to no expansion in the material.
It‘s mainly used in glass-to-metals seals in scientific apparatus, conductors in vacuum tubes, X-ray, microwave tubes, and light bulbs.
This alloy contains nickel, about 52 to 67% of it, copper and trace amounts of manganese, iron, carbon and silicon. It‘s corrosion resistant, malleable, has a low coefficient of thermal expansion, and high strength.
Uses of monel include but are not limited to:
There are several types of monel alloys, some are listed below:
This is a nickel-chromium alloy whose properties are high electrical resistance and high temperature resistance. It has a silvery-gray color. Its main uses are as resistance wire, heating elements in equipment such as space heaters and toasters and as well as in dental restorations.
It‘s also used in the explosives and fireworks industry as a bridgewire in electric ignition systems such as electric matches and model rocket igniters. It‘s also used in ceramics, flame testing as well as in motorcycle mufflers.
This is wrought nickel which has a purity of about 99.6%. It contains trace elements of iron, manganese, silicon, copper, carbon, and sulfur.
Its uses are:
Nickels rods and bars are straight, they have various shapes including square, circular, and triangular amongst others. It‘s mainly used in applications such as steam turbines in power plants and aircraft gas turbines.
There are several types of nickel bars namely: nickel hex bar, pure nickel alloy round bar, ASTM B160 nickel alloy rod, and nickel alloy square bar to name just a few.
This is a form of nickel that is made up of rolled nickel and is used in the construction of buildings and bridges.
This is a flat plane made of nickel or nickel alloys. Nickel sheets have uniform thickness and are thin.
Nickel sheets have various applications such as in the power generation, marine, electronics, and aerospace industry to name just a few.
This is a hollow nickel tube which is either cylindrical or rectangular in shape and can be used to transport fluids or gasses or as equipment components.
Permalloy is a nickel alloy that contains 80% nickel and 20% iron. Its properties include high magnetic permeability. This makes it suitable for use as a magnetic core material in electrical and electronic equipment. It's also used in magnetic shielding to block magnetic fields.
These nickel-based alloys are resistant to corrosion from acids.
Types of Hastelloy nickel-based alloys are listed below:
This chapter will discuss the applications and benefits of nickel metal.
As highlighted before nickel is a versatile metal with a variety of applications. These applications are summarized in the list below:
Nickel is 100% recyclable and is of paramount importance in the construction of buildings and certain equipment used in the power and communications industries to name just a few. It‘s tough, corrosion resistant, and hygienic, making it useful in the medical industry. Nickel is rarely used in its purest form, it‘s typically combined with other metals to form alloys that offer ductility and strength at high temperatures.
Nickel‘s ability to withstand high heat minimizes corrosion. What this means is that the metal can be used for many years without having to replace it. It can be used to make jet engines, offshore installations and power generation facilities as a result of its ability to withstand very harsh temperature conditions. Nickel is a principal component in the stainless steel industry.
Despite the multitude of useful applications and good properties of nickel and nickel alloys there are a variety of drawbacks associated with these substances and these are listed below:
Nickel finishes, often electroplated over a variety of metals such as copper or brass, can tarnish over time due to exposure from chemicals, oil, cleaning products, acidic foods, and many other substances. Harsh weather can also cause the finishes to tarnish as a result nickel plated products require special care. A mild soap can be used along with a clean soft towel to clean the surface. A solution of water and vinegar can also be used to remove dirt and oils. Bleach based cleaners and abrasives should be avoided. Nickel products do not rust though are corrosion resistant.
Nickel is a naturally occurring metallic element which belongs to the metal category known as transition metals. It has two types of ores namely: laterites and magmatic sulfide ores. An ore is a naturally occurring rock which contains one or more minerals that can be extracted, refined and then sold at a profit. The nickel is mined and extracted from the ores using two different methods. Open cut mining, a surface mining method, is used to mine the laterite ore. Laterite ores contain large amounts of water as moisture and hydroxides as a result a large amount of energy has to be used in the drying process and removal of the chemically bound water. Sulfide ores are extracted using underground mining techniques. The ore is crushed and selective floating is used to get some of the nickel from the ore and remove the waste. Magnetic separators are sometimes used as well. Both extraction and refinement of the two ores result in nickel matte, a substance which is a nickel-iron sulfide. Further refinement of the nickel matte can result in nickel with a purity of up to 95%.
Secondary manufacturing processes include casting, molding, separating, and forming. Nickel can be machined into a variety of shapes through processes such as nickel extrusion, cold drawing and Electroless nickel plating. The latter being the most common way to shape nickel. Nickel can be shaped into bars and rods, sheets, plates, tubes and many other shapes. The main use of nickel is in the making of nickel alloys.
Nickel alloys can be classified into the following categories namely: nickel-titanium alloys, nickel-chromium-cobalt alloys, nickel-chromium-molybdenum alloys, nickel-chromium-iron alloys, nickel-chromium alloys, nickel-molybdenum alloys, nickel-copper alloys, nickel-iron alloys, and wrought nickel. Nickel alloys all have different characteristics that make them suitable for a variety of applications.
Nickel is 100% recyclable and has many uses in the power, communications, marine, oil, and medical industries however it has its drawbacks. The most apparent drawback comes from the fact that mining is the only method that can be used to obtain the nickel ore of which mining is harmful to the environment. Furthermore, extracting nickel from laterite ore is expensive as a large amount of energy is required for the drying and smelting process. However nickel and nickel alloys remain an integral part of human civilization as products made from these substances are durable and can last for decades.
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