Nickel has been used for thousands of years for as many applications but it was only in the 18th century that it was classified as a chemical element. Since then Nickel and Cobalt have been used to manufacture metal components for many different applications. As production methods were refined, they were mixed with other elements to create alloys. Alloys have different properties to their component elements once they are combined. This allowed manufacturers to create metal to different specifications depending on the intended use or application. This has given rise to several registered trademarks which describe particular mixtures.
Early rechargeable batteries used Nickel mixed with Cadmium however these are becoming increasingly rare as they can be out performed by Lithium-Ion batteries. Despite more modern materials being used in replacement of Nickel alloys, there is still a huge demand for it so what makes it useful?
Products made from Nickel alloys can be used to conduct heat while retaining their strength which makes it very useful in a number of industrial situations. It will also conduct electricity efficiently which makes it useful in electronics. They can also be resistant to corrosion which makes it ideal for use around water. In addition these properties can be fine tuned allowing an engineer to choose an alloy based on what it will eventually be used for.
One of the most prominent, recent, uses for Nickel alloys has been in Aerospace. Its corrosion and heat resistance made it the ideal candidate for early prototype jet engines in the 1940’s. Even since, civil and military aircraft have made use of it in engines, turbines and exhaust systems. Its conductive property has also been an advantage when creating the ever more complicated electrical systems used in aircraft and even space craft, today. The automotive industry has also made use of Nickel alloys in exhaust systems, spark plugs and electrical equipment.
Nickel Alloys are also used in most areas of fuel extraction, processing and power generation plants. Oil and gas rigs make use of it for tubing. The combination of good heat and corrosion resistance make it the ideal material. Petrochemical plants also use it for vessels, tubing and heat exchangers to name a few. Amongst the most recent applications in this industry are solar engineering and nuclear reactors.
Sectors which require equipment to withstand high temperatures on a regular basis also make use of Nickel alloys. Heat treatment and processing plants use it is several areas. These alloys are primarily designed to withstand high temperatures.
Nickel alloys are also used domestically for electrical resistance heating (or electrical cookers). These come in wire, ribbon or strip forms depending on the design of the appliance.
These applications will keep Nickel alloys in production for years to come and make Nickel one of the most versatile elements known to man.