When you consider the types of metals used in homes and businesses, one that is prominent is nickel. Nickel is everywhere in various forms, from pure virgin nickel used for electroplating to stainless steel nickel in appliances. Learn more about this metal and its various applications.
Nickel is a ferromagnetic metal that is very malleable, ductile, and hard. It contains a strong corrosion resistance to salt water, as it is often found in a range of marine applications. The metal also has fair conductivity to both electricity and heat. It is used in electronics as it has a melting point of 2,647.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Another interesting property of nickel is that it dissolved very slowly when introduced to dilute acids.
Nickel is often used when alloying other metals. It is a major metal in the creation stainless steel, as 69% of the globally produced nickel goes toward this application. It is also added to non-ferrous metals and other steel in a range of industries such as aerospace, industrial, and military applications. Roughly 15% of produced nickel is used in this way.
When looking at virgin nickel, it is often used for electroplating. Nickel electroplating is a process where a layer of nickel is applied to the surface of another metal. This process is done for a variety of reasons, such as to protect the other metal from corrosion, add strength to the metal and aware resistance, and to improve the finish of the metal.
To perform electroplating, the metal surface that the nickel will be applied to needs to be cleaned and free of defects. Then a masking stage begins where the parts of the surface that will not undergo electroplating are covered. The metal undergoes a heat treatment to soften the surface, improve formability, and strengthen the metal. Next, impurities are removed, such as rust and stains, in a process called pickling. Etching is the last preparation process to cut into the unprotected surface to make designs.
An electrolyte solution is made as the metal surface is immersed into the liquid and acts as a cathode. A nickel anode is added to the electrolyte solution as it dissolves as the nickel ions attach to the metal surface.
Nickel electroplating is often used for a range of applications such as providing a protecting coating on machinery components to being used as a decorative surface finish on automotive parts. Nickel plating is also placed onto electronics to improve the ductility and durability of the surface. Other products that benefit from nickel plating include plumbing fixtures such as faucets, and on lighting fixtures.