Nickel – a complete overview

Nickel symbol.Chemical element of the periodic table on a glossy white background in a silver frame.Vector illustration.

Nickel is a metal that is the d-block element as well as a transition metal. It is the d-block element because its electronic configuration contains d-orbital. It is a unique element that is silvery-white lustrous metal. It has the symbol Ni and atomic mass 28. It is a hard, brittle, and ductile metal that is converted into hard wires, pipes as well as coins. It is also present in the powdered form because it reduces the surface area but large pieces of nickel are slow to react because an oxide layer covers it so that it will be reduced or prevented corrosion and rusting. It has a standard atomic weight of 58.69 amu. Nickel is basically a ferromagnetic material that is hard, and tough than iron.

Earth’s outer and inner core is composed of an iron-nickel mixture. Nickel is slowly oxidized means it has the ability to lose electrons. It is an electropositive metal by air at room temperature. In the early ages, nickel is basically used in plating, coating chemistry equipment & manufacturing alloys.

Figure: Importance of Nickel in world

Nickel metal is valuable in modern times in alloys: about 68% of world production is used in stainless steel. Nickel contains a different number of niches such as a catalyst for hydrogenation, a cathode for batteries. Nickel is an essential nutrient for some microorganisms & plants. It is also used to convert Ghee into the oil.

Discovery & History of Nickel:

Intentional uses of nickel are commonly ancient that can be traced to 3500 BCE. it is observed that 2% of nickel is part of the bronze medal. In ancient Chinese manuscripts, white copper known as cupronickel is discovered in 1700 and 1400 BCE. Some coins of nickel alloy were mined by Agathocles and Pantaleon in the 2nd century BCE. Different meteorites contain a mixture of iron and nickel. It was named as native of Pew as a kind of silver-Zinc alloy is called Pai-T’aing used in China as long as 200 BCE.

In 1751, Axal Fredrick was working in Stockholm where he mined a metal. He called it nickelins (NiAs). Nickelins came when mining was done in Los Angeles, Sweden. He thought that it should contain copper but when he extracted he saw that a new metal arose. So, he called it nickel in 1754.

Different chemists of different countries thought that it was an alloy of cobalt, arsenic, copper, and iron but until 1775, pure nickel was produced by Torbern Bergman confirmed its elemental nature. Earlier an ore of the same type was called Kaperfernickel after “Old nickel” and his mischievous gnomes because it resembles copper ore.

Periodicity & Physical properties:

Each element in the periodic table may possess different trends in periodic properties as well as physical properties. Changes in the periodic am physical properties are due to:

  • Strong intermoklecular forces.
  • Increase nuclewar attraction.
  • Change in trhe size of atom.
1. State at STPSolid
2. Electronic configuration[Ar]3d8, 4s2
3. Melting point1455°C. 2615 F
4. Boiling point2913°C, 5275 F
5. Density8.90g/cm3
6. Heat of fusion17.48 KJ/mol
7. Heat of Vaporization379 KJ/mol
8. Molar heat capacity26.07 KJ/mol
9. Youngs modulus180 GPa
10. Shear modulus200 GPa
11. Poisson ration0.31
12. Crystal structureFace centered cubic
13. Electrical resistivity69.3nΩ
14. Thermal conductivity90.9 W/mK

Changed electronic configuration:

The electronic configuration of Ni with atomic number, 28 is somehow different because in this the d-orbital is involved which is a higher energy orbit. The electron should fill first in the lower energy orbit and then in the higher energy orbit. It is due to stability. If we discuss the stability of orbital then it is noticeable that a partially filled orbital is more stable than that of the half-filled orbital. So, to attain stability and symmetry electrons should fill first in the s-orbital and then in the d-orbital. Hence, the configuration of Ni becomes:

Nickel = Ni = 28 = 1s2, 2s2, 2p6, 3s2, 3p6, 3d8, 4s2

Now, we will discuss the periodic properties of Nickel. Nickel belongs to group number 10 and 4th period. So, its periodic properties vary in groups as well as periods:

  • Its oxidation states are -2, -1, 0, +1, +2, +3, +4
  • 1st Ionization energy of nickel is 737.1 KJ/mol & 2nd ionization energy is 1753.0 KJ/mol. The increase in both ionization energy is due to decrease in size of atom and increase nuclear charge.
  • Electronegativity of nickel is 1.91 (According to pauling scale)
  • Its atomic radius is 124 pm.
  • Van der waals radius of nickel atom is 163 pm.

Chemical Properties :

It is important to explain the chemical properties with the explanation of physical properties. In the chemical properties of nickel, we will discuss in detail the chemical reactivity of the Nickel. Nickel may react with oxygen, halogens, dilute sulphuric acid and also act as a catalyst.

  • Nickel does not react with water under normal circumstances.
  • Nickel react with air in ambient conditions. The reaction between air and nickel appear to proceed the product nickel (II) oxides:

2NiO + O2 → 2NiO

  • Nickel react with halogens except flourine beacuse flourine does not react with nickel due to its small size and electronegative atom. Nickel react with Cl2, I2 and Br2 to form nickel (II) dihalides:

Ni + Cl2 → NiCl2

Ni + Br2 → NiBr2

Ni + I2 → NiI2

  • It also react with dilute acid such as dilute sulphuric acid, to form solution containing aquated Nickel (II) ions togather with hydrogen gas:

Ni + H2SO4(aq) → Ni2+ + SO42- + H2

  • Nickel does not react with bases i.e. Strong or weak.
  • It act as an active catalyst in conversion of vegetable ghee into vegetable oil. Hydrogenation of alkene is done by using nickel catalyst in presence of 250°C to 300°C temperature.

CH2 = CH2 + H2 → CH3 – CH3


Nickel constitutes about 0.02% of the earth’s crust. Metallic nickel is formed only in some meteorites. Cheif ores of nickel are: Pentlandite(Ni, Cu, Fe)S, nickel glance (NiAsS), Garnierite (Ni, Mg)SiO3.xH2O, Smaltite (Ni, Co, Fe)As2, Niccolite, and White nickel ore. It is also found in the form of arsenide ores that are found in Norway, Canada, Spain, and the USA.

Nickel is considered to be the fifth abundant element on the earth. In the earth’s inner core it is the second (2nd) abundant metal. Norway used nickel in smelting sites. So, in Norway, it is abundant and acts as catalysts called Pyrrohotite. Large deposits of nickel occur due to ancient meteor impacts. It was also discovered in Russia & South Africa in the early 1900s. In Canada, about 30% of Nickel is obtained. Indonesia and Australia have 43.6% of the world’s today. Nickel basically occurred in two types of deposits;

  • Laterite Deposits: Results of intensive weathering of surface nickel-rich rocks.
  • Magnatic Sulfide Deposits:

Nickel also occurs in the environment. Windblown dust, volcanic eruptions, vegetation forests fires & meteoric dust contain very harmful Nickel particles. Different anthropogenic activities such as mining, refining, roasting, smelting, bassmerization, combustion, and incineration rush out Nickel as harmful material in the atmosphere. Nickel is widely available in the soil and an essential nutrient for photosynthesis.

The emission of nickel for the estimated source is about 8.5 million by year, in the early 1990s. The general population is exposed to low levels of nickel in ambient air, water, food through tobacco consumption/combustion.


Most commonly nickel exists in the oxidation state of +2 but those compounds are introduced that have oxidation states 0, +1, +3 & also these compounds are introduced that have an exotic oxidation state of -2, -1 & -4. Following are the compounds of nickel:

1. Nickel (0):

Nickel (0) is called tetracarbonyl nickel. It was discovered by Ludwing Mod. He discovered it when he reacted four (4) moles of carbon monoxide with nickel resulting in tetracarbonyl nickel (Nickel (0)). Basically, Nickel (0) is used as an active catalyst in organonickel chemistry to prepare the organic compounds in which nickel is involved.


The reaction by which it is formed is:

4CO + Ni → Ni (CO)4

This compound has tetrahedral geometry. Nickel forms 4 bonds with carbon and each carbon forms a triple covalent bond with carbon by which electrons are mutually shared. In this structure, the bonds between CO are 2 but according to Coulson’s treatment of CO, it possesses a 2.5 bond order that means a positive or negative charge may shift either on carbon or on oxygen.

2. Nickel (I):

Nickel (I) is basically a complex having tetrahedral geometry. It posses Ni-Ni bonding and by reduction of K2[Ni2(CN)6] with sodium amalgam dark red diamagnetic K4[Ni2(CN)6] is obtained by the liberation of H2 gas. Nickel-containing enzymes such as [NiFe]-Hydrogenase is important to Nickel (I) which involves the catalyzes of reversible proton H2.


This diagram is showing the structure of nickel I. It contains two nickel atoms which are single bonded to each other and also cyanide CN is placed on both adjacent Nickel atoms. It is a complex having an oxidation state -4.

3. Nickel (II):

Nickel (II) compound of nickel forms many of the complexes with sulfates, sulfides, carbonates as well as hydroxides. The formation of Nickel (II) with other compounds are given below:

  • By the addition of Nickel (Ni) in Sulphuric acid (H2SO4), the Nickel (II) sulphates are produced. This is also produced by using Ni – oxides instead of using Ni – metal.

H2SO4 + Ni → NiSO4 + H2

  • Different meta aqua complexes are formed when common salt of nickel are dissolved in water (aqueous medium) to form meta aqua complexes.
  • Nickel (II) chlorides are most illustrative to other halides. These are produced when Nickel metal or its oxide are reacted chemically with HCl to give green hexahydrate solution.

Ni + 2HCl → NiCl2 + H2

4. Nickel Hydroxides & oxides:

Ni-OH is used as a catalyst intermediate and in the manufacturing of Nickel – Cadmium (Ni-Cd) Batteries. Nickel may also react with oxides and hydroxides to form the following compounds:


Green nickel oxides are a relatively pure form of nickel monoxide. It is produced by firing a mixture of nickel powder and water in the air at 1000 °C. This is also used for the manufacturing of nickel catalysts.

Ni (mixture of nickel powder) + 2H2O → Ni(OH)2 + H2


Black nickel oxides are precursors to nickel salt. They have the same level of high chemical purity and have a similar high surface area. It contains 76.6% to 77.9% nickel content. Black nickel oxides are basically pure nickel monoxide. It is manufactured by the calcination of nickel hydroxycarbonate or nickel nitrate at 600°C. Nickel trioxide is also called Black Nickle oxides.

5. Nickel Salts:

Following are the nickel salts:

  • Nickel acetate is used in electroplating and as a dye mordant.
  • Nickel ammonium sulphates is used as metal finishing composition.
  • Nickel chloride is used in absorbing tower of industrial gas masks where its absorb ammonia.


Basically, there are 18 isotopes of nickel. But nickel possesses only five stable isotopes:

IsotopesRelative AbundanceApplications & Uses
1. 58Ni62.27%It is used to study human absorption of Nickel
2. 60Ni26.01%It is used to study bone densitometry, gamma camera preference cell
3. 61Ni1.13%It is used in PET
4. 62Ni3.59%It is used in electron capture source in Gas Chromatography
5. 64Ni0.91%It is used in Radiomunrotherapy

Extraction of Nickel from different Pentlandite Ore:

Extraction is basically the procedure by which a pure ore is extracted and purified by the different intermingled ores. So, in this heading, we will cover how nickel is extracted from the different ores.

1. Concentration of ore:

First of all the impure and insoluble materials are separated out on the basis of their weight. The ore is ground and crushed in a crusher and then enters the Froth Floatation Process. The palm oil is introduced in the floatation chamber and then the heavy objects which are insoluble settle downward and remaining float on the surface of the water. The useful components are driven out and then roasted, smelted to obtain the pure and concentrated nickel in the form of NiS (Nickel Sulfide).

Froth floatation process

2. Roasting:

No, the concentrated ore obtained is roasted in the excess supply of oxygen in the blast furnaces. It requires approximately 8-10 weeks for the roasting. Due to roasting some of the conclusions are drawn:

  1. Excess of the free sulphur is oxidizedto SO2.
  2. Most of the FeS is oxidized to the FeO. some of FeS remains unaffected.
  3. Moisture is removed.

During roasting, NiS and CuS remain unaffected and the roasted mass thus obtained NiS, CuS, and a little free sulfur and FeS. The roasting equipment is trying to maintain the heat evolution during the burning of sulfur.

3. Melting/Smelting:

The roasted mass containing NiS, CuS, and a little free sulfur and FeS is mixed with coke and fluxing material (silica, SiO2, limestone, and calcium carbonate) & then it is smelted at high heat in the smelting furnace so that the remaining FeS and free sulfur are oxidized to FeO and SO2 respectively. FeO produced during roasting and smelting combine with silica to form ferrous silicate. FeSiO3.

FeO + SiO2 → FeSiO3

At the same time, CaO obtained from the decomposition of CaCO3 also combines with silica to form calcium silicate, CaSiO3.

CaO + SiO3 → CaSiO3

Both the iron silicate and calcium silicate are fusible slag which is not a required product. Due to their lighter weight, both float on the molten mass that consists of NiS, CuS, and little free sulfur.

Smelting process of heating

4. Basemerization:

The molten mass obtained at the end of the smelting operation is mixed with silica and then introduced into a Bessemer type converter with a basic lining and fitted with tuyers to admit hot air under pressure. A blast of hot air is admitted into the converter under pressure through the layers. The hot air is oxidised almost. All the remaining sulfur and FeS are oxidized to SO2 and FeO respectively.

FeO combines with SiO2 to form a slag of FeSiO3. This slag is continuously removed. The resulting mass obtained at this stage is called besemerised NiS-CuS matte which consists almost entirely of the sulfides of Ni and Cu. The composition of matte is as: Ni = 55%, Cu = 25 – 30%, S = 14 – 17% & Fe = 0.1 – 0.5%.

5. Recovery/Refinning of nickel:

The process of recovering nickel metal from the besemesrised NiS-CuS matte obtained above is termed as refining of nickel or matte. Refining of Ni is generally done by Mond’s Process in which matte is again roasted in the presence of excess O2. So, that NiS and CuS are converted into NiO, and CuO is treated with dilute H2SO4 at 80 °C which converts CuO into soluble CuSO4 while NiO remains unaffected.

The residue of NiO is treated with water gas (CO + H2) when NiO is reduced to crude nickel. This crude nickel is then treated with CO so that Ni is converted into the vapors of nickel tetracarbonyl, Ni(CO)4 which on being heated to 180 °C decomposes into 99.9% pure nickel.

2NiO + H2 + CO → 2Ni + H2O + CO2

Ni(CO)4 → Ni (pure) + 4CO↑

World Production:

Nickel is most commonly used to manufacture high-grade steel & different Ni-Cd batteries. In 2020, it was estimated to be approximately 2.5 million metric tons. Indonesia, the Philippines, Russia & New Caledonia are the basic and major countries that mine nickel in higher quantities. Global mine production of nickel is 2.5 million tons. Global nickel reserves are 94 million tons. The largest nickel-producing company overworld is Tsingshan Group.

One of the localities in the US where nickel is ruined is Riddle, Oregon, where several square miles of nickel-bearing surface are deposit is located. The eagle mine project is a new nickel mine in the Upper Peninsula. The quarter of construction is completed in 2014. But in the first full year of cooperation, the Eagle mine produces 18000 tons of nickel.

Nickel world production
The Graph showing the approximation of world production of Nickel

Application & Uses:

Following are the applications and uses of Nickel:

  1. Due to its high melting point, great resistance to corrosion, acids, and alkalies, nickel is largely used to make crucibles, dishes and other chemcal wares and also in electrical industry.
  2. It used for nickel plating in which NiSO4 . 7H2O or NiSO4 . (NH4)2SO4 . 6H2O solution is used as an electrolyte.
  3. Finally divided nickel is used as catalyst in hydrogenation of oil and fats.
  4. Nickel metal combines with many other metals and form alloys which find a number of applications.
  5. Nickel is also used in many specific and recognizable industrial & consumetr products. It is involved in the manufacturing stainless steel, alnico magnets, coinage, rechargable batteries and electrical guitar strings.
  6. Nickel is used in many other alloys including nickel brasses, and bronzes, alloy with copper, chromium, aluminium, lead, cobalt and silver beacuse it is resistant to corrosion.
  7. In the 20th century, nickel is considered an excellent alloying agent and a precious metal. Nicel is used to collect six PGE elements from ores.
  8. PGE stands for Platinum group elements. It is also used in the recovery of platinum and plladium. These both are involved in the hydrogenation of unsaturated hydrocarbon. But these both are very expensive metals.
  9. Basically nickel is the ferromegnatic means that, it has domains in it. When current passes throigh it these domains become straight & nickel act as a magnet. So, it undergo change in length with small variation.
  10. Nickel acts as a binder in cemented tungsten carbide. In this nickel provide great and excelent errosiveness in cemented parts but its hardness is less then cobalt binder.
  11. Approximately, 27% of nickel is utilized in engeenering, 10% of it is used in bulding and construction, 14% of it is used in making tubular products.
  12. Oil is used to make margarine and left over Ni act as contaminant. Type 2 diabetic patient have 0.89 ng/ml of Ni in relative blood.
  13. It is also used in armour plating and burglerproof vaults metals.
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