Nickel is a good conductor of electricity. It is a metal with free electrons that readily carry current in a particular direction in the presence of a potential or electric source.
Nickel features heavily in alloys, and its conductivity may be altered at some point. In this guide, I will dig deep into nickel’s physical and chemical properties and how it conducts electricity.
From there, you will also learn about its electrical conductivity and resistivity, the factors affecting them, and the various real-life applications of nickel.
Properties of Nickel
- Nickel is a crystalline solid metal with a face-centered cubic (FCC) structure.
- Its atoms are connected by ionic bonding.
- The metal has a density of 8.908 g/cm³.
- The boiling and melting point of nickel is 2913°C and 1453°C respectively.
- Nickel is a malleable and ductile radioactive metal.
- It has 7 oxidation states: 2,-1,0,+1,+2,+3, and +4.
- At room temperature, the bivalent metal is ferromagnetic.
How Does Nickel Conduct Electricity?
Nickel conducts electricity due to the movement of delocalized electrons. The metal has 2 valence electrons, readily vibrating randomly from one end to another.
In the presence of an electric field, this random movement halts. Instead, electrons move in a specific direction (from the negative to the positive side of the electric potential) resulting in conduction.
Is Molten Nickel a Good Conductor of Electricity?
Solid nickel will melt and become molten when exposed to high temperatures or heat. The metal still conducts in this (ionized) form because it releases 2 electrons and becomes Ni²⁺.
However, the intensity of conduction is lower in molten nickel than in naturally occurring (solid) ones.
Electrical Conductivity and Resistivity of Nickel
The electrical conductivity of any material is a measure of how much electric current it can pass through. The electrical conductivity of nickel is 14.3 x 10⁶ S/m (high).
Electrical resistivity is the opposite of conductivity. It measures how far any material is willing to oppose the flow of electrical current. The electrical resistivity of nickel is 7.0 x 10⁻⁸ Ωm (low).
Factors That Affect the Electrical Conductivity of Nickel
1. Atomic structure
Metals generally have atoms held together by a sea of delocalized electrons which eventually get excited within an electric field. Unlike silver or copper (with just a valence electron), nickel has 2.
This is why its conductivity is lower compared to that of copper. In essence, metals with lesser valence electrons conduct electricity better than those with more.
When metals get exposed to high temperatures, their delocalized electrons become more energetic resulting in better conduction. However, this relationship is not linear, or the same for all metals; a good example is Nickel.
As I pointed out earlier, nickel melts when exposed to high temperatures and becomes less conductive. Other metals that conduct less with an increase in temperature include iron and aluminum.
3. Doping or the presence of impurities
Doping is exposing a material to impurities to alter its conductivity. For example, nickel can be doped with impurities such as boron and phosphorus.
The conductivity of nickel will increase with the presence of these impurities. In other words, impurities are directly proportional to electrical conductivity.
Pressure can also alter the electrical conductivity of a metal. In nickel, an increase in pressure results in increased density and the number of delocalized electrons.
More delocalized electrons mean better conductivity in nickel. So it is safe to say pressure is directly proportional to electrical conductivity in nickel.
When metals get stretched or undergo mechanical strain, their lattice becomes compressed. This distorts the distribution of delocalized electrons in Nickel and hinders electrical conductivity.
Does Nickel Conduct Heat?
Nickel is a good conductor of heat. This is because its valence electrons are extremely agile in high temperatures. It has a thermal conductivity ranging from 90.7 to 106 W/m.K depending on its state (solid or liquid).
Uses of Nickel
- Nickel is usually the metal of choice for making coins.
- It is a ductile metal that features wires.
- Nickel-made gas turbines and rocket engines are also very anti-corrosive.
- It is also used in making armor plating, pipes, and nails
Is nickel a weak conductor of electricity?
Nickel is not a weak conductor because it conducts electricity better than some metals like tungsten and titanium.
A “fair conductor” is a more appropriate tag for the ductile, silvery-white, and malleable metal.
Is nickel a better conductor than copper?
Copper is a better conductor of electricity than nickel. This is why nickel copper (an alloy of copper and nickel) boasts more conductivity than pure nickel.
Is nickel a better conductor than silver?
Nickel is not a better conductor than silver or gold. The metal only becomes an option for applications such as nickel-plated contacts for people with low budgets.
Nickel conducts electricity and heat. This is because its valence electrons readily vibrate and conduct in the presence of voltage.
Engineers alter this metal by exposing it to temperature, pressure, and impurities. This helps them achieve their goals in electrical applications like wires and jet engine turbines.
Nickel is also corrosion-resistant and features in the manufacturing of some stainless steel types.
I hope you found this guide helpful. Like nickel, some metals are also decent conductors. To identify them, please see my guide on metals that conduct electricity.
Thanks for reading.