Nickel, #28

The United States nickel, or five-cent piece, is made of an alloy called cupronickel. It’s 75% copper and 25% nickel. These days the melt value of the coin exceeds the face value. According to I can get six cents for my nickel! Apparently this is not allowed. You can’t melt US-minted coins and sell the metal.

Nickels aren’t very useful or convenient any more. Neither are most coins but we still pound out billions of them each year.

The element Nickel—atomic number 28 and symbol Ni—is used in a lot more things than coins. Mostly it is alloyed with iron (in small quantities) to make stainless steels. Alnico magnets (Al-Ni-Co, aluminum-nickel-cobalt) are another important use. And we are all familiar with Ni-Cd or “nicad” (nickel-cadmium) rechargeable batteries. We can’t get through the day without using steel products and portable electronics.

Worldwide 2.7 million metric tons of nickel were produced in 2021. That’s up from 1.6 M in 2010. Indonesia and the Philippines are the top exporters. China is the largest consumer as they have a massive steel industry.

Nickel is a shiny, durable, and corrosion-resistant metal. It is substituted for silver and is also used to electroplate other metals to provide a tougher, more attractive finish. Nickel compounds can be very colorful and some make lovely solutions in the test tube.

Here’s a nickel for your thoughts:

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