Chromium provides the basic corrosion resistance that makes stainless steel "stainless." However, about two-thirds of the stainless steel currently produced contains nickel. In the following, we list some examples of the benefits of nickel-containing stainless steel.
Corrosion resistance is only part of the problem when selecting materials. You must make the product easy to make, and you may also need additional performance. In the familiar 18/8 grade (304) type stainless steel (18% chromium, 8% nickel), nickel gives the steel an austenitic structure, which makes the stainless steel easy to form and can be processed into complex shapes. Thin and thick sections are Easy to weld, can be used from very low temperature to high temperature range, and is not brittle. 18/8 stainless steel is also easy to produce, familiar to users and widely used. For these reasons, it may be the most widely used steel in the world.
There are other aspects that may need to be considered. Austenitic stainless steels become stronger after deformation. This means that cold-worked materials can be used to make lighter structures. It can absorb a large amount of energy when it is deformed, which may be useful in designing a vehicle structure and can provide protection in a collision accident.
Beauty is equally important. Looking around any modern city, the appearance of nickel-containing austenitic stainless steel has made it popular in architectural applications and various surface finishes for interior decoration.
There are other types of stainless steel. If the stainless steel contains low or very low nickel and no other elements such as manganese or nitrogen that can stabilize the austenite structure, such stainless steel has a ferrite structure. The medium nickel content provides a mixed austenite plus ferrite structure, or duplex structure. Nickel plays an important role in determining the organization and properties of most of the steel grades.
The correct use of stainless steel ensures their corrosion resistance, and the stainless steel project will be in service for many years. This durability means playing a major role in developing a more sustainable society: improving energy efficiency, reducing pollution, and reducing the use of materials. In addition, the value of all alloying elements (not only nickel) provides a powerful incentive to recycle these substances at the end of the life of stainless steel products and re-use them for the production of stainless steel. In fact, stainless steel is the most recycled material in all materials. The only factor that limits the amount of recycled stainless steel is that so many stainless steel projects are still in use after many years.
Nickel plays a crucial role in providing comprehensive performance, making stainless steel one of the fastest growing materials currently in use and an important solution to the world's sustainability challenges.