The Nifty Element Nickel

The Element Nickel

Introduction to Nickel

The element nickel is a silvery white and hard transition metal. Nickel is a good conductor of electricity and heat. It is commonly used in the production of alloys because of its valuable properties.

Ten interesting & fun facts about Nickel

  1. Nickel has a role in the cells of microorganisms and plants.
  2. Supernovas are explosions of stars and they produce many metals such as nickel.
  3. It is a catalyst for the production of unsaturated compounds (margarine and shortening)
  4. It’s the second most abundant metal in the Earth’s core
  5. The US five-cent coin, called a ‘nickel’, contains 25% nickel and the remaining is copper.
  6. A nickel allergy from jewelry can cause a skin condition called dermatitis. 
  7. Artifacts containing nickel were discovered in graves in Egypt. Ancient Egyptians used the element taken from meteorites to create these artifacts.
  8. Reports suggest nickel compounds be carcinogenic and as well as dangerous if inhaled.
  9. In glass production, nickel provides a green color.
  10. Its name comes from the German word ‘Kupfenickel’, meaning “Old Nick’s copper”.

Nickel in the Periodic Table

Nickel has the atomic symbol Ni and has an atomic number of 28. It is located in the d-block on the periodic table, with cobalt to its left and copper on its right. Also, it is a ferromagnetic transition metal in group 10 and period 4. The electronic configuration of [Ar]3d84s2 . Additionally, it has an electronegativity of 1.91 on the Pauling scale.

In the Environment

Nickel is one of the most abundant elements that can be found in soil, water, and air. Additionally, most of the element is in the earth’s molten core, making it accessible. Most of the metal is found in oxides and sulfides and a large amount is dissolved in the sea. Also, the element nickel is released into the atmosphere from ore mining or power plants. Furthermore, a combination of the element nickel with sulfur and arsenic can create ore minerals millerite and niccolite. Importantly, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and Russia are a few countries that have nickel mining.


Nickel is a metal that can easily mix with other metals to create alloys. Moreover, adding the element nickel to other metals can change the properties of the alloy. Some examples of these alloys that have desired qualities are:

  • Nickel-Iron Alloys (low rate of thermal expansion)
  • Nickel-Chromium Alloys (resistant to high corrosion, and electrical & temperatures)
  • Nickel-Copper Alloys (resistant to corrosion by salt water)
  • Nickel-Molybdenum Alloys (resistant to strong acids)
  • Nickel-Titanium Alloys (shape retention property)
  • Nickel-Chromium-Iron Alloys (resistant to oxidation and high-temperature corrosion)
  • Nickel-Chromium-Cobalt Alloys (Addition of creep rupture strength)
  • Nickel-Chromium-Molybdenum Alloys (resistant to high corrosion and strong acids)

For more information, see this page

Nickel Element Applications in Today’s World

What is nickel used for?

Nickel has common use in the production of coins and produces a variety of alloys which provides desired characteristics. Additionally, these alloys tend to have strong resistance to corrosion and high temperatures. Often used in extreme environments such as power generation facilities, chemical plants, jet engines, and petroleum refineries. Also, the element is used in the production of batteries such as nickel-metal hydride batteries (hybrid vehicles) and nickel-cadmium batteries (rechargeable).

When and How was nickel Discovered?

In the ancient world, far back as 3500 BCE, nickel had many uses by different civilizations. However, a Swedish chemist called Axel Fredrik Cronstedt discovered nickel in 1751. By extraction, he found the ore in the mineral niccolite. Also, described by miners as kurpfernickel and has similar physical features to copper.

Picture showing the mineral niccolite where nickel can be found in
The mineral niccolite
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Nickel Element Chemistry – compounds, reactions, oxidation states

Nickel Element Compounds

Importantly, there are several chemical compounds that contain nickel, commonly Ni(II):

Nickel oxide 

NiO is a basic metal oxide and it has the same structure as sodium chloride (NaCl). It has a green-black powdery appearance and is odorless. Moreover, commonly used in plating solutions as an electrolyte.

Nickel nitrate 

Ni(NO)3)2 is an inorganic compound, that has a green crystalline solid appearance, and is insoluble in water. Also, used in the production of catalysts and plating.

Nickel Hydroxide

Ni(OH)2 is an inorganic compound, has an apple-green solid appearance, and is slightly soluble in water. In addition, commonly used in the production of electric car batteries.

Nickel sulphate

NiSO4(H2O)6 is an inorganic compound, has a blue-solid appearance, and is slightly soluble in water. Furthermore, commonly used as an electrolyte in electrorefining and plating.

Nickel chloride

NiCl2 is an inorganic compound, has a green or brown solid appearance, and is denser than water. The compound is commonly used as an agent in the electrolytic refining of the metal. Its also an intermediate for complex salt and catalysts.

Nickel sulfide

NiS is an inorganic compound, has a black solid appearance, and also is moderately soluble in water. Additionally, commonly used as cathode materials for lithium batteries and a toughening agent for catalysts.

Nickel Element Reactions


Nickel does not react with water under normal conditions but it can under acidic conditions. Under acidic conditions, the Ni ions would form a light green complex.


The metal slowly reacts with halogens (Cl2, Br2, I2) and then forms dihalides.

Ni(s) + Cl2(g) → NiCl2(s)

Br2(g) + Ni(s) → NiBr2(s)

Ni(s) + I2(g) → NiI2(s) 


Ni (II) ions precipitate as nickel(II) hydroxide (green precipitate) by ammonia. Also, it dissolves in excess ammonia and forms a blue hexaaminenickel (II) hydroxide.  


The metal would dissolve in dilute sulphuric acid slowly, which then forms aqueous Ni(II) ion and Hydrogen (H2)     

Ni(s) + H2SO4(aq) → Ni2+(aq) + SO42−(aq) + H2(g)

Hydroxide ions

Metallic Ni does not react with aqueous sodium hydroxide (NaOH) but nickel(II) ions will precipitate (green) by hydroxide ions.      

Ni2+(aq) + S2−(aq) → NiS(s)        


The element does not react with oxygen (O2) at room temperature however, when finely divided, it would burn, forming nickel (II) oxide, NiO.

2 Ni(s) + O2(g) → 2 NiO(s)


Using H2S or Na2S, Ni(II) ions are precipitated under alkaline or neutral conditions to form black NiS.

Ni2+(aq) + S2−(aq) → NiS(s)   

Oxidation states

Nickel has 6 oxidation states: -1, 0, +1, +2, +3, and +4 but the +2 state is the most common. Additionally, Ni2+ generally forms a number of complexes, encompassing coordination numbers 4, 5, and 6.

Isolation of Nickel Element

Moreover, the element can be extracted from sulfidic and lateritic ores. For the sulfidic ore, nickel is extracted with electric and flash smelting, which is where the ore is placed in a furnace with pre-heated oxygen. For lateritic ore, it is extracted using conventional roasting, which removes moisture from the ore then a reduction furnace is used.

Physical properties of Nickel Element

As stated before, nickel is a silverly hard metal which is ductile and forms cubic crystals. Also, it is malleable and is known for its resistance abilities from corrosion and high temperatures. Lastly, It is a good conductor of electricity and heat.

  • Sodium Symbol: Ni
  • Melting point: 1453℃
  • Boiling point: 2730℃
  • Density: 8.90 g/cm3 @ 25℃
  • Atomic weight: 58.69 u
  • Atomic number: 28
  • Electronegativity: 1.91
  • Classification: transition metal
  • Natural abundance of nickel in the earth’s crust: 0.009%
  • Electron shell configuration: [Ar]3d84s
  • Isotopes: Nickel has 5 stable isotopes, 58Ni, 60Ni, 61Ni and 64Ni
  • Found naturally in the minerals: millerite, niccolite, limonite, pyrrhotite, pentlandite, and garnierite.
  • Toxicity: toxic in large doses and nickel compounds can be carcinogenic

Where can I buy Nickel?

Lastly, many online stores that specialize in metals tend to sell nickel.