What is Nickel? | Types, Definition, Structure, Function & Facts

What is Nickel?

Nickel is the first element in the tenth column of the periodic table. It is classified as a transition metal. The nickel atom has 28 electrons and 28 protons with 30 neutrons in the most abundant isotope form.

Characteristics and Properties

Under normal conditions, nickel is a fairly hard but malleable metal with a silvery white color.

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Nickel is one of the few elements that is magnetic at room temperature. Nickel can be polished to a shine and corrosion resistance. It is also a good conductor of electricity and heat.

Highlights of Nickel:

Symbol Ni
Atomic Number 28
Atomic Weight 58.6934
Classification Transition metal
Phase at Room Temperature Solid
Density 8.9 grams per cm cubed
Melting Point 1455°C, 2651°F
Boiling Point 2913°C, 5275°F
Discovered by Axel Cronstedt in 1751

Where is Nickel found on Earth?

Nickel is one of the main elements in the earth’s core, thought to be composed mainly of nickel and iron. It is also found in the earth’s crust, where it is the twenty-second most abundant element.

Most of the nickel mined for industrial purposes is found in ores such as pentlandite, garnierite, and limonite. The largest nickel producers are Russia, Canada and Australia.

Nickel is also found in meteorites, where it is often found along with iron. A large nickel deposit in Canada is believed to have originated from a giant meteorite that crashed into the earth thousands of years ago.

How is Nickel used today?

Much of the nickel mined today is used to make steel and nickel alloys. Nickel steel, such as stainless steel, is very durable and resistant to corrosion. Nickel is often combined with iron and other metals to create strong magnets.

Other uses of nickel include batteries, coins, guitar strings and armor plates. Many nickel-based batteries are rechargeable, such as NiCad (nickel cadmium) and NiMH (nickel-metal hydride) batteries.

How was Nickel discovered?

Nickel was first isolated and discovered by the Swedish chemist Axel Cronstedt in 1751.

Where did Nickel get its name?

Nickel gets its name from the German word “kupfernickel” which means “devil’s copper”. Miners in Germany call nickel-containing ore “kupfernickel” because although they think the ore contains copper, they cannot extract copper from it. They blame their problem with this ore on the devil.


Nickel has five stable isotopes found in nature, including nickel-58, 60, 61, 62 and 64. The most abundant isotope is nickel-58.

Oxidation States

Nickel exists in oxidation states from -1 to +4. The most common is +2.

Interesting Facts about Nickel

The American 5-cent coin, “nickel”, consists of 75% copper and 25% nickel.

It is the second most abundant element in the earth’s core after iron.

Nickel plays a role in the cells of plants and some microorganisms.

It is sometimes added to glass to give it a greenish tint.

Nickel-titanium alloy nitinol has the ability to remember its shape. After changing shape (folding), it will return to its original shape when heated. About 39% of the nickel used annually comes from recycling.

Other ferromagnetic elements such as nickel are iron and cobalt, both of which are close to nickel in the periodic table.