Nickel alloys are metal alloys in which nickel has the highest percentage of any other element used in its composition. Nickel is an incredibly common alloying element since it is both highly versatile and able to alloy with almost any metal. As a whole, nickel-based alloys offer heat-resistance as well as high corrosion-resistance against a broad spectrum of corrosive media, such as chemical, alkalis, petroleum, and seawater.
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Applications of Nickel Alloys
Some common elements that nickel is alloyed with to form nickel alloys included iron, copper, chromium, manganese, carbon, and silicone.
Nickel alloys are used in many applications and industries, including:
- Used in eye-glass frames, hypodermic tubing, and surgical sutures.
- Power Generation
- For use in steam turbine power plants and nuclear power plants.
- Used in weapons, vehicles, and identification tags.
- Industrial Manufacturing
- For use in corrosive material handling and various machinery, such as direct current (dc) motors or generators.
- For shipping vessels, off-shore oil rigs, and small parts, such as springs or fasteners.
- For use in gas turbines, jet engines, and components, such as piping and shims.
Material Properties of Nickel Alloys
There are a vast number of nickel alloys, which are often categorized in terms of their second most prominent element, the characteristics they display, or the uses they are being put to. For instance, a nickel alloy with the composition of 55% nickel and 45% titanium is referred to as Nitinol, also called a nickel-titanium alloy or a shape memory alloy. Another example is a nickel alloy with a composition of 80% nickel and 20% chromium, called Nichrome, also called a nickel-chromium alloy or an electrical resistance alloy. Some other popular types of nickel alloys include Hastelloy, Cupronickel, Monel, Inconel, German silver, and Alumel.
Nickel alloys are broken down into these four main types:
- Low-Expansion Alloys
- Include nickel alloys that are specifically engineered to have low thermal expansion.
- Electrical Resistance Alloys
- Nickel alloys with a high nickel content. Electrical resistance alloys include two sub-categories: resistance alloys and heating alloys, which contain silicone and possibly niobium in addition to nickel and chromium.
- Soft Magnetic Alloys
- Nickel alloys with high magnetic permeability and low saturation induction.
- Shape Memory Alloys
- Nickel alloys capable of returning to their prior shape upon undergoing the appropriate heating schedule.