Nickel is a versatile element and will alloy with most metals. Nickel alloys are alloys with nickel as principal element. Complete solid solubility exists between nickel and copper. Wide solubility ranges between iron, chromium, and nickel make possible many alloy combinations. Its high versatility, combined with its outstanding heat and corrosion resistance has led to its use in a diverse range of applications; such as Aircraft gas turbines, steam turbines in power plants and its extensive use in the energy and nuclear power markets. Huaping Special Metals stocks nickel-base alloys for a wide variety of applications in its worldwide sales organization.

Types of Nickel Alloys

Nickel in elemental form or alloyed with other metals and materials has made significant contributions to our present-day society and promises to continue to supply materials for an even more demanding future. Nickel has always been a vital metal for a wide variety of industries for the simple reason that it is a highly versatile material that will alloy with most other metals.

Common Types of Nickel Alloys

Nickel will alloy easily with most metals such as copper, chromium, iron, and molybdenum. The addition of nickel to other metals alters the properties of the resulting alloy and can be used to produce desired characteristics such as improved corrosion or oxidation resistance, increased high-temperature performance, or lower coefficients of thermal expansion, for example.

The sections below present information about each of these types of nickel alloys.

Nickel-Iron Alloys

Nickel-iron alloys function in applications where the desired property is a low rate of thermal expansion. Invar 36®, also sold with trade names of Nilo 6® or Pernifer 6®, exhibits a coefficient of thermal expansion that is about 1/10 that of carbon steel. This high degree of dimensional stability renders nickel-iron alloys useful in applications such as precision measurement equipment or thermostat rods. Other nickel-iron alloys with even greater concentrations of nickel are used in applications where soft magnetic properties are important, such as transformers, inductors, or memory storage devices.

Nickel-Copper Alloys

Nickel-copper alloys are very resistant to corrosion by salt water or seawater and thus find application in marine applications. As an example, Monel 400®, also sold under the trade names Nickelvac® 400 or Nicorros® 400, can find application in marine piping systems, pump shafts, and seawater valves. This alloy as a minimum concentration of 63% nickel and 28-34% copper.

Nickel-Molybdenum Alloys

Nickel-molybdenum alloys offer high chemical resistance to strong acids and other reducers such as hydrochloric acid, hydrogen chloride, sulfuric acid, and phosphoric acid. The chemical makeup for an alloy of this type, such as Alloy B-2®, has a concentration of molybdenum of 29-30% and a nickel concentration of between 66-74%. Applications include pumps and valves, gaskets, pressure vessels, heat exchangers, and piping products.

Nickel-Chromium Alloys

Nickel-chromium alloys are prized for their high corrosion resistance, high-temperature strength, and high electrical resistance. For example, the alloy NiCr 70/30, also designated as Ni70Cr30, Nikrothal 70, Resistohm 70, and X30H70 has a melting point of 1380oC and an electrical resistivity of 1.18 μΩ-m.  Heating elements such as in toasters and other electrical resistance heaters make use of nickel-chromium alloys. When produced in wire form they are known as Nichrome® wire.

Nickel-Chromium-Iron Alloys

Nickel-chromium-iron alloys combine these elements to produce alloys that resist oxidation and high-temperature corrosion. Alloy 800, sold under the trade names Incoloy 800®, Ferrochronin® 800, Nickelvac® 800, and Nicrofer® 3220, is used in furnace components such as petrochemical furnace cracker tubes, and as a material for sheathing of electrical heating elements. These alloys generally are also valued for their optimum creep and rupture properties at high temperatures. The composition of these alloys is typically 30-35% Nickel, 19-23% Chromium and a minimum of 39.5% Iron. The high concentration of iron has led to the reclassification of these alloys as stainless steel.

Nickel-Chromium-Molybdenum Alloys

With similar applications to nickel-molybdenum alloys, nickel-chromium-molybdenum alloys also provide high corrosion resistance especially with regard to reducing acids such as hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid. One of the best known of these alloys is Alloy C-276, also sold under the trade names Hastelloy C276®, Nickelvac® HC-276, Inconel® 276, and Nicrofer® 5716. This alloy is used in pollution control stack liners, ducts, and scrubbers, as well as in chemical processing components such as heat exchangers, evaporators, or reaction vessels. The composition of this alloy is primarily nickel with 15-17% molybdenum, 14.5-16.5% chromium, 4-7% Iron, 3-4.5% tungsten, and smaller concentrations of other elements such as manganese.

Nickel-Chromium-Cobalt Alloys

These alloys of nickel add chromium and molybdenum to add creep rupture strength to the alloy. Alloy 617 is an example, sold under the trade names Inconel 617® and Nicrofer® 617, which has a composition of 20-24% chromium, 10-15% cobalt, and 8-10% molybdenum with a minimum nickel content of 44.5%. Applications for these alloys include industrial furnace components, gas turbines, catalyst grid supports to produce nitric acid, and fossil fuel production facilities.

Nickel-Titanium Alloys

Nickel-titanium alloys feature shape retention of shape memory properties. By forming a shape from this alloy at a higher temperature and them deforming it from that formed shape at a lower temperature, the alloy will remember the initial shape and reform to that shape once heated to this so-called transition temperature. By controlling the composition of the alloy, the transition temperature can be altered. These alloys have a super-elastic property that can be exploited to provide, among other uses, a shock absorber against earthquake damage to help protect stone buildings.