Why Nickel?

Why Nickel is important to the Stainless Steel industry?

First identified in the 1700s, nickel was first known as ‘kupfernickel’, because it was found in a rock that looked like copper ore. Miners once thought nothing of nickel, thinking that this element makes it difficult for them to extract copper from rocks. Little did they know that nickel would soon become one of the most essential industrial metals of the world!

Nickel is what makes stainless steel highly corrosion resistant in the form of the 300 series (e.g. 302, 303, 304) and many PH grade (e.g. 17-4) stainless alloys. Some of the 400 series stainless steels are high chromium carbon steels that are not as fully corrosion resistant in spite of their inclusion in the category of stainless steels. The alloys 416 and 440C show slight corrosion (rust spotting) when left in water for a period of time or when water dries out on them.

Nickel Facts and Figures

NICKEL is resistant to corrosion, high strength over a wide temperature range, has a pleasing appearance, and suitability as an alloying agent make it useful in a wide variety of applications.n

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Stainless Steel is the predominant use of nickel, materialof choice for consumer safety and hygiene. Household equipment, domestic appliances, equipment for the food industry, pharmaceutical production tools, and surgical equipment. Stainless steel is also extensively used in building and construction, transportation, and heavy industries such as chemicals and petrochemicals.n

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Principal uses for primary nickel were stainless steel (65%) nickel-based alloys (12%) electroplating (10%) casting and alloy steels (8%) rechargeable batteries (3%) coins (1%).n

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There are mainly two reasons, Why Nickel is important to the stainless steel industry?n

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Reasons:
1. Addition of chromium decreases toughness of steel, Nickel compensates the decrease in toughness.n

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2. Chromium also induces ferromagnetism in steel which is not desired in some of the applications, Nickel also helps in countering this problem. Chromium is what makes stainless steel stainless. Nickel enhances corrosion resistance at high temperatures.n

Canadian Nickel Facts

  • In 2012, Canada mined roughly 15.5 million tonnes of ore containing an estimated 218,564t of nickel.
  • Two companies, Sherritt and Vale produced a total of 152,500t of refined nickel from three refineries.
  • Canada ranked fourth among world nickel producers after China (519,200t), Russia (256,000t), and Japan (169,000t).
  • Of note, Canada exported 80,756t of nickel in matte to Norway and 39,347t of smelted nickel oxide to the UK.

* All information on this page was published in 2012’s nickel commodity review by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).