Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/269

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NICKEL AND ITS USES.

that they can be manipulated only by skillful workmen. In this connection it is worthy of note and illustrative of the old saying, "There is nothing new under the sun," that a coin of the Bactrian king Euthydemos,[1] who reigned about 235 years before Christ, is in composition very similar to the alloy adopted by Belgium, the United States, and other countries.

Nickel-plating annually calls for a large amount of the metal. The process is said to have been invented by Böttcher about 1848, and was first applied to firearms in order to prevent them from rusting, but is now applied to every description of iron and steel work. The effect, as is well known, is very fine, as the nickel, coating is white, bright, and hard, and, since it shows but very little tendency to oxidation, it retains its brightness for a long time.

Important as are the uses of the metal already indicated, the world's annual consumption has been small; not over a thousand tons was consumed in 1888, nickel-plating calling for more than half of this amount.

It is, however, in connection with one of the new uses of nickel—viz., as a constituent of nickel steel—that special interest attaches to the metal at present.

It is well known that nickel is frequently associated with iron in meteorites, and the view that the well-known and valuable qualities of meteoric iron might be due to the presence of nickel has not wanted advocates in the past.

Again, as far back as 1853, nickeliferous iron ores from Marquette, Mich., were found to produce iron possessing unusual toughness, a very white color, and a diminished liability to oxidation.

For a long time Nature's hints were neglected or disregarded, but in 1888 patents were taken out in England and France by different individuals for the preparation of nickel steel.

Tests of this alloy have been made by competent authorities, and the effect of the addition of small percentages of nickel to steel is seen in greatly reduced tendency to oxidation and increased strength. As an example of the superiority of this nickel steel, the following results of one of the tests may be given: A steel containing 4·7 per cent of nickel "showed an ultimate strength of thirty per cent and elastic limit of sixty to seventy per cent higher than those of mild steel, with a nearly equal ductility, and the valuable quality added of less liability to corosion."[2] The authority who obtained these remarkable results adds: "Think for a moment of this in connection with the erection of the Forth


  1. The Numismatic Chronicle, viii, 305; quoted by Roscoe and Schorlemmer.
  2. Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute, No. 1, 1889.