What are nickel-based alloys used for?

Nickel-based alloys are materials that are composed mainly of nickel and some other alloys. Otherwise known as Ni-based alloys, they are well-known for their excellent strength and corrosion resistance. They have superior resistance to heat and so, are often found in high-temperature environments.

Some common additional chemical elements to nickel-based alloys are chromium, cobalt, molybdenum, iron and tungsten.

Nickel is obtained through extractive metallurgy: it is extracted from the ore by conventional roasting and reduction processes that yield a greater than 75% purity metal. In many stainless steel applications, 75% pure nickel can be used without further purification, depending on the impurities.

Historical Uses of Nickel-Based Alloys

Nickel-based alloys have an extensive history in the use of warfare. The use of nickel dates to the ancient Roman era when nickel featured in the manufacture of Roman armour.

Lost in the Middle Ages, nickel was used once again in the 1890s as the Americans discovered they could manufacture it into armour plates.

However, nickel came into the limelight during the First and Second World Wars and in the ensuing Cold War. Nickel-based alloys were used for guns, ammunition, tanks and more. For instance, the Germans built a portable bridge using nickel-iron alloy during the Second World War.


The Many Uses of Nickel-Based Alloys

There are thousands of uses for nickel, and nickel-based alloys are one of the most common metals you would find. Some examples of the uses of the application of nickel are:

  • Defence, especially marine applications

  • Energy generation

  • Gas turbines, both flight and land-based, especially for high-temperature exhaust

  • Industrial furnaces and heat exchangers

  • Food preparation equipment

  • Medical equipment

  • Laboratory equipment

  • In nickel plating, for corrosion resistance

  • As a catalyst for chemical reactions

  • Mobile phones

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Building materials

  • Nuclear power systems

  • Power cables

  • Batteries

  • Jewellery


Types of Nickel-Based Alloys

Nickel-Copper Alloys – Possess outstanding corrosion resistance in reducing chemical environments and in seawater, where they serve as excellent materials for nuclear submarines and various surface vessels.  By changing the ratio of nickel and copper in the alloy, a whole series of alloys with different electrical resistances can be created. Prime amongst these alloys is Alloy 400 and Alloy K500.

Nickel-Chromium – Provide higher strength and resistance in extremely high temperatures. Prime alloys are Alloy 600, Nimonic alloys including N80a, Alloy X750, Alloy 718, Alloy 625. Alloy C-22, and Alloy C-276.

Iron-Nickel-Chromium Alloys – Used in high-temperature petrochemical environments, where sulphur-containing materials are cracked into component distillate parts. Prime alloys in this class are Alloy 800 / 800HT, Alloy 825 and Alloy 925.

Controlled-Expansion Alloys – Offer high strength and low coefficient thermal expansion. For example, Alloy 902, 903, 907, and 909.

Nickel-lron Low-Expansion Alloys – Developed for the lamp and electronics industries where glass-to-metal seals in sealed environments are important. Prime alloys are Alloy 42 and Alloy 426.

Soft Magnetic Alloys – These nickel-iron alloys also offer magnetic permeability properties used principally in switchgear and for direct current motors and generators.

Welding Alloys – Additions of aluminium, titanium, magnesium and other elements are made to the filler metals and welding electrodes to provide better weld effects and to over-come any hot-short cracking and malleability problems.


The Nickel-Based Alloys We Sell

Check out our Nickel Alloy page for a list of the types of nickel alloys we sell and a summary of their uses.

If you are still unsure what type of alloys would be most suitable for your needs, why not head over to our Contact Us page and get in touch with our in-house Metallurgist who will be happy to help you out!

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