Nickel-containing materials play a major role in our everyday lives – food preparation equipment, mobile phones, medical equipment, transport, buildings, power generation – the list is almost endless. They are selected because – compared with other materials – they offer better corrosion resistance, better toughness, better strength at high and low temperatures, and a range of special magnetic and electronic properties.
Nickel metal is used to provide hard-wearing decorative and engineering coatings as ‘nickel-plating’ or ‘electroless nickel coating’ or ‘electroforming’. When used with a top layer of chromium, it is popularly known as ‘chrome-plating’. When done in combination with silicon carbide it is known as composite plating.
Nickel is a key part of several rechargeable battery systems used in electronics, power tools, transport and emergency power supply. Most important today are nickel-metal hydride (NiMH).
Nickel is a key ingredient in many catalysts used to make chemical reactions more efficient.
Nickel use is growing at about 4% each year while use of nickel-containing stainless steel is growing at about 6%. The fastest growth today is seen in the newly and rapidly industrializing countries, especially in Asia. Nickel-containing materials are needed to modernize infrastructure, for industry and to meet the material aspirations of their populations.
At the end of their useful life, nickel-containing products can be collected and recycled for future use and re-use. Nickel is one of the most recycled materials globally. It is collected and recycled, mostly in the form of alloys. About half of the nickel content of a stainless steel product today will have come from recycled sources.