Nickel and Nickel Alloys

in Aircraft Materials Processes and Hardware

There are basically two nickel alloys used in aircraft. They are Monel and Inconel. Monel contains about 68 percent nickel and 29 percent copper, plus small amounts of iron and manganese. Nickel alloys can be welded or easily machined. Some of the nickel Monel, especially the nickel Monels containing small amounts of aluminum, are heat-treatable to similar tensile strengths of steel. Nickel Monel is used in gears and parts that require high strength and toughness, such as exhaust systems that require high strength and corrosion resistance at elevated temperatures.

Inconel alloys of nickel produce a high strength, high temperature alloy containing approximately 80 percent nickel, 14 percent chromium, and small amounts of iron and other elements. The nickel Inconel alloys are frequently used in turbine engines because of their ability to maintain their strength and corrosion resistance under extremely high temperature conditions.

Inconel and stainless steel are similar in appearance and are frequently found in the same areas of the engine. Sometimes it is important to identify the difference between the metal samples. A common test is to apply one drop of cupric chloride and hydrochloric acid solution to the unknown metal and allow it to remain for 2 minutes. At the end of the soak period, a shiny spot indicates the material is nickel Inconel, and a copper colored spot indicates stainless steel.