Nickel (Ni) has excellent physical and chemical properties that make it ideal for use in alloys – especially when used with chromium, or with iron (ferronickel), as well as with other metals, to produce stainless steels that are heat-resistant.
There are at least 3,000 nickel alloys, including stainless steel, for use in a range of industries, to produce a range of goods, including vehicle crankshafts and axles, propeller shafts, scientific and surgical equipment, and pipelines. Nickel alloys are also used in a range of household products such as kitchen sinks, cooking utensils, and washing machines. Importantly for our green metals strategy, nickel alloys are used in PV solar panels and wind turbines (which use about two tonnes of nickel).
Nickel has excellent properties: a high melting point (1,454°C); can withstand extreme low temperatures; resistant to corrosion and oxidation; good catalytic properties; fully recyclable.
Nickel is an essential component in Li-ion batteries, enabling batteries to store greater amounts of energy and to reduce the use of more expensive cobalt. However, around 68% of nickel demand still comes from stainless steel production; whereas batteries capture under 15% of the nickel market production. This balance is forecast to change dramatically in the coming decade when demand is expected to be driven increasingly by the EV sector. With global EV sales expected to exceed 30 million by 2030, demand for nickel (like lithium) is expected to grow. Further, producers will be pressured to reduce the carbon footprint of nickel; giving an advantage to mines and refineries that offer reliable, socially and environmentally assured supply of product.
Nickel alloys are used in PV solar panels and wind turbines