28Ni Nickel

Year Discovered


Discovered By

Axel Cronstedt of Sweden (although it was used in coins in China as early as 235 B.C.E.)

Biological Rating

Necessary for all life.


Named after a German word meaning “Devil’s copper,” nickel is a shiny, malleable, silvery-white metal. It is a stable metal, unaffected by air and water but it dissolves in acids. Nickel is one of the three ferromagnetic metals (with iron and cobalt), but is weakest of the three. Nickel is very common in meteorites, and its presence often determines if a stone is a meteorite or not. Most nickel is used in alloys with steel, especially stainless steel. It is also used in catalysts and as a plating to protect other, more reactive metals. It is used extensively in coins. The U.S. 5 cent piece is known as a nickel due to its one-time 75 % nickel content. That content has dropped to about 25 % today. Nickel added to glass imparts a green color. Nickel is an important component of “ni-cad” batteries.

Biological Benefits

Nickel is a necessary trace element to many species. It interacts with iron in oxygen transport. It also stimulates the metabolism, as well as being a key metal in several plant and animal enzymes. Rats raised on a nickel-poor diet tend to develop liver damage.

Role in Life Processes

Necessary for full health of plants and animals.

Percentage Amount in the Human Body: 0.00002%


Nickel is obtained from two main types of deposits from the mineral garnierite (Ni-silicate) in nickel-rich laterite formed by weathering of ultramafic rocks in tropical climates. It also is mined from Ni-sulfide concentrations, mainly from pentlandite in igneous mafic rocks. Garnierite is mined in Australia, New Caledonia, Russia, Indonesia, Cuba and Dominican Republic. Pentlandite is mined in Canada, Russia, Australia and South Africa. Canada alone produces about 30 % of the world’s sulfide nickel. Nickel is a common component of metal rich asteroids and meteoroids. Nickel, along with iron, is thought to make up the majority of the Earth’s and other rocky planet’s cores.