A short history of nickel

Nickel is an amazing material, found in artefacts dating back over 2,000 years. Swedish chemist, Axel Cronstedt was first to identify and isolate it as a single element. That discovery was in 1751 yet it was not until into the 19th century that nickel really became prominent in a variety of uses.

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How did nickel get its name

During the 15th century miners looking for copper found a brownish red ore that they were very excited about. When they tested it they found that they were not able to extract any copper, nor did the processed ore have the properties of copper. As a result they named it Kupfernickel or Devils copper which later got shortened to nickel in translation.

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Uses of nickel

The most common use of nickel is as an alloy or for plating other metals. When mixed with copper and zinc the alloy, know as nickel silver or German silver, takes on a silvery colour as the names would suggest yet there is no elemental silver in it at all. One of the major uses of nickel copper alloys came in 1857 when the USA created the nickel, where as Switzerland used pure nickel for their coins in 1881.

Moving into the early 20th century and the discovery of stainless steel brought about a new use for nickel in some of the common grades. These alloys containing nickel were able to withstand high temperatures and were found to have a very high corrosion resistance. These properties made the stainless steel alloys containing nickel very suitable for use in chemical plants and played a significant part in the invention and creation of the jet engine. More uses of nickel can be found here https://geology.com/usgs/uses-of-nickel/.

In more recent decades nickel has become a valuable material in the form of nickel composites in the coatings industry. Nickel polymer coatings containing nickel composites outperform their rivals by several times in tests making it a highly effective choice.

With so many applications available for this common element as a pure substance and more so as an alloy, it is no wonder that the uses and applications for nickel has continued to grow over the centuries. Today the growth is not slowing due to its use in many industrial applications including protective coatings.

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