How Is Nickel Made?


Quick Answer

Nickel is not manufactured or synthesized. It is an element with the chemical symbol "Ni" that occurs naturally in ores and minerals. It is also found in the Earth’s crust and occurs as a by-product of cobalt blue production. The Swedish chemist Axel Fredrik Cronstedt discovered nickel in 1751, but its use dates back to at least 3,500 B.C.

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Full Answer

Much of the nickel that is mined today was deposited by meteor strikes. This may be true of the large nickel ore deposits mined in the Sudbury region of Ontario, Canada. According to Jefferson Lab, most of the nickel mined today is produced at this site. Other nickel producers are Russia, Australia, New Caledonia, Cuba and South Africa.

Because native nickel reacts with oxygen, it is rarely found on the Earth’s surface. It is, however, one of the most common elements. Sea water contains about 8 billion tons of dissolved nickel. The Earth’s molten core is 10 percent nickel. Nickel is an essential compound in the enzymes in some species of beans, while tea leaves also contain significant amounts of nickel. Nickel is also found in many ores and minerals, such as millirite, niccolite and pentlandite. Nickel is an unusual metal because it is both hard and ductile. Like iron, cobalt and gadolinium, it is a ferromagnetic element, which means it is slightly magnetic at or around room temperature.

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