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Topic 5

Nickel and nickel alloys

At the completion of this topic you should be able to:

Appreciate the basic reason why nickel is a major alloying element

Understand the effect of the various alloying elements used in conjunction with nickel

Be aware of the major alloys based on nickel, their strengths and weaknesses and
their range of applications. This will include nickel-copper, nickel-chromium, nickelchromium-iron, and the superalloys. Some other nickel alloys with specialised
applications will also be mentioned.

Understand the general characteristics that make nickel similar- but different, to
carbon steel when it is being welded
Cleaning prior to welding
Weld preparation
Effect of age hardening
Welding processes MMAW; GTAW, GMAW
Shielding gas characteristics
Filler material characteristics

Be aware of the requirements for soldering and brazing nickel and its alloys

Module MAT1. Welding Mettallurgy

Topic 5: Nickel and nickel alloys
University of Wollongong 2001, Cranfield University 2008. All rights reserved


Peritech Pty Ltd, 2001,
Chapter 5.Nickel Alloys Function of the Alloying Elements
Chapter 6: Commercial High Nickel Alloys
Chapter 6 The Joining of Nickel Alloys

ASM Metals Handbook series with Volume 6 Welding Brazing and Soldering
Welding Handbook, 1996, Eighth edition, Volume 3, Chapter 4, Nickel and cobalt alloys,
American Welding Society

R. F. Decker and C. T. Sims, in The Superalloys, Eds. C. T. Sims and W. C. Hagel,

Wiley, New York, 1972, p. 33.
S. Kou Welding Metallurgy Second Edition, Wiley-Interscience, 2003.

Web sites
(INCO Alloys International (
Krupp VDM (/
Haynes Inc (

Module MAT1. Welding Mettallurgy

Topic 5: Nickel and nickel alloys
University of Wollongong 2001, Cranfield University 2008. All rights reserved



The topic will cover four main areas:


Nickel and its dilute alloys

The function of the alloying elements

Commercial nickel alloys

The welding of high nickel alloys

Survey of Types of Nickel and its Alloys

Nickel is one of the most useful alloying elements available to materials engineers. In
smaller amounts (<10%) it gives increased toughness and better low temperature
toughness to steel.

In larger amounts it imparts a degree of resistance to both high and low temperatures
and to a wide range of corrosive atmospheres. Some of the alloys and the superalloys
in particular have a high creep resistance and are therefore used for turbine blade
SAQ 1.

Peritech 2001
Corrosion and
heat resisting
materials chapter
5 Nickel alloys,
function of the

Nickel is used mainly as an alloying element but it can be used in its

commercially pure form for some applications. There are two
problem areas with the higher carbon grade nickel (N02200). State
what these are and why they occur.

Nickel Alloys - Function of the Alloying Elements

Heat resistance: Heat resistance is also provided by chromium through the chromium

oxide film. The effect of this film can be enhanced by silicon and aluminium. Nickel also
makes the scale formed at high temperatures more resistant to spalling and hence
gives metals containing higher nickel superior heat resistance.
There are also a range of other alloys added for the more advanced alloys used in gas
turbine operations where service in excess of 1000C is required
Corrosion resistance: Chromium is the major element used to provide atmospheric

corrosion resistance, as well as heat resistance, to nickel. Nickel, in conjunction with

chromium, allows the corrosion resistance provided by chromium oxide film formed on
the surface to be utilised without the damaging metallurgical changes in the
microstructure found in straight iron-chromium alloys.
Module MAT1. Welding Mettallurgy
Topic 5: Nickel and nickel alloys
University of Wollongong 2001, Cranfield University 2008. All rights reserved


Pure nickel and alloys of nickel with copper have excellent corrosion resistance and are
used extensively in the food industry.
Molybdenum additions to these alloys give superior corrosion resistance, particularly in
chloride environments.
Nickel is also alloyed with molybdenum alone to provide the alloys most resistant to
hydrochloric acid

In summary, the function of the principal alloying elements is as follows:

Aluminium: Can give improved high temperature resistance because of effect on the

chromium oxide film. It is also used with titanium to give precipitation hardening by
Carbon: Generally harmful but can provide dispersion hardening if carefully controlled
Chromium: Solid solution strengthener but principally there for the chromium oxide film
Copper: Copper is a solid solution strengthener, and inhibits the formation of graphite,

and enables the material to be more resistant to oxidising and reducing environments.
Gives improvement in non-aerated sulphuric and hydrofluoric acids
Iron: Mainly low cost, non-harmful replacement for nickel
Molybdenum: Significant solid solution strengthener but also considerably improves

chloride pitting and crevice corrosion. Possibly harmful at high temperatures

Niobium: Solid solution strengthener and carbide stabiliser. Age hardening alloy when

weld cracking possible.

Tantalum, Titanium and Zirconium: Carbide stabilisers. Titanium is also a component of an
age hardening
Silicon: Can provide high temperature corrosion resistance but generally restricted. Can

also provide useful carburising resistance

Tungsten: Significant solid solution strengthener

Now study the chapter Nickel Alloys - Function of the Alloying Elements in the text
supplied. In order to assist your understanding you will find it helpful to do the short answer
test questions Nickel Alloys - Function of the Alloying Elements in conjunction with this .

Module MAT1. Welding Mettallurgy

Topic 5: Nickel and nickel alloys
University of Wollongong 2001, Cranfield University 2008. All rights reserved


SAQ 2.

Of all of the alloying elements added to high nickel alloys chromium

and iron are probably the most common. Briefly describe the function
each of these.

SAQ 3.

What phase forms at chromium contents above 25-35%?

Commercial High Nickel Alloys

The main nickel alloy groups are:

Cupronickels - Usually low (<30% Ni) and used extensively in marine applications
because of their excellent corrosion resistance to salt water. There are also a group
of alloys based on 60-65% Ni generally referred to as Monel after the name given

Corrosion and
heat resisting
high nickel

by International Nickel Inc.(INCO) to this alloy. This high nickel group are also used
because of their resistance to atmospheric and marine corrosion.

Nickel Chromium Alloys -These alloys are used in applications ranging from
corrosion resistance in the chemical and petrochemical industries to high
temperature service in furnaces and gas turbine engine components.
Some alloys in this class have their resistance to chloride corrosion improved by
molybdenum additions. One particular group used in hydrochloric acid service is
based on only nickel and chromium

Nickel Chromium Iron Alloys Iron is a common addition in commercial alloys and
can be present up to around 50%.

Superalloys - The nickel superalloys are highly creep resistant due to precipitation
hardening within the grains, and due to carbides which form along the grain
boundaries and prevent grain boundary sliding. The microstructure of a typical
superalloy is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Microstructure observed in a Nickel base superalloy (Decker and Sims, 1972).
There is also a wide range of other nickel based alloys for specialised electrical and
magnetic applications.
Most alloys are available in both cast and wrought form.

Module MAT1. Welding Mettallurgy

Topic 5: Nickel and nickel alloys
University of Wollongong 2001, Cranfield University 2008. All rights reserved


Now study the chapter Nickel Alloys - Commercial High Nickel Alloys in the text supplied


The UNS alloy N06600 is sometimes called the 600 alloy. Would this
alloy be suggested for maximum corrosion resistance in an
environment where chlorides were present. If not, what similar alloy
would be recommended.?


What happens to the corrosion resistance of Ni-Fe-Cr alloys if the

chromium content gets above about 25-35%?

Welding Processes
Chapter 5, The
Joining of
Nickel Alloys

Nickel and its alloys can be welded by all of the major welding processes. Oxy-acetylene is
not usually used because of the difficulty of satisfactorily controlling the air-gas ratio.
Nickel alloys are susceptible to the following forms of cracking when welded:

Solidification cracking. This occurs during the final stage of solidification. The
tensile stresses caused by the contraction of the weld metal exceeds the strength
of the last bit of weld metal to solidify. The solubility of phosphorus and sulphur both always present to some extent - is much lower in austenite than ferrite,
resulting in strong rejection of these elements from primary austenite. They tend to
form low strength or liquid films around the primary austenite particles, resulting in
hot cracking under shrinkage stresses. Hence high levels of sulphur and
phosphorus should be avoided.

Liquation cracking. Similar to solidification cracking, but the low melting point
region is on the grain boundaries of the HAZ of the base material. For the nickel
alloys, the carbides which are present to enhance creep resistance melt before the
surrounding grains. Hence the melted grain boundaries form cracks, which open
when the weld cools and contracts.

Post weld heat treatment cracking (also called strain-age cracking). Often the
nickel alloys are post weld heat treated to relieve stress and obtain the maximum
strength through precipitation hardening. The heat treatment involves solutionising
the material first followed by aging. In the solutionising process some aging will
occur as the material is heated up to temperature. This results in two effects:
a) A reduction in the materials ductility due to the precipitates that form as it is
heated to the solutionising temperature.
b) Strains in addition to those caused by welding due to the phase changes
that occur during aging.

Module MAT1. Welding Mettallurgy

Topic 5: Nickel and nickel alloys
University of Wollongong 2001, Cranfield University 2008. All rights reserved


Both of these effects can cause the nucleation of new cracks during aging as well as
the growth of existing cracks.

Figure 2 Effect of Al and Ti contents on postweld heat treatment cracking. (Kou 2003)

The ease with which nickel alloys can be welded is dependent on the alloying. Alloys
which have a large amount of either aluminium or titanium which produce precipitates are
particularly difficult to weld as shown in Figure 2. They exhibit both liquation and post weld
heat treatment cracking. Table 1 describes the typical problems that can be experienced
when welding the nickel-base superalloys together with some solutions.

Table 1 Typical problems in welding nickel-base alloys, after (Kou, 2003).


Alloy Type


Low strength in HAZ


Resolution and artificial aging after welding.

Post weld heat treatment




Use less susceptible grade (IN 718)

Heat treat in vacuum or inert atmosphere.
Welding in overaged condition.
Rapid heating through critical temperature
range for cracking.
Reduce heat input

Module MAT1. Welding Mettallurgy

Topic 5: Nickel and nickel alloys
University of Wollongong 2001, Cranfield University 2008. All rights reserved



Alloy Type


Liquation cracking

All types

Reduce heat input

Reduce restraint
Avoid coarse-grain structure and Laves

More generally the principal points that must be considered when welding nickel alloys are:

Cleanliness: This is probably the most significant. Oxides, sulphur compounds and
contamination with zinc, lead and carbon can prove harmful.

Metal viscosity: The higher viscosity of the metal compared to carbon steel can
cause welders to increase the current. This does not solve the problem. Wider gaps
and weaving patterns are better solutions.

Penetration: The lower penetration compared to carbon steel again calls for a
different type of joint preparation. It may also require specialised shielding gas

Post weld heat treatment cracking: When welding precipitation hardened nickel
alloy grades care is needed to avoid post weld cracking. Use low heat inputs and
minimise the time taken to reach the solutionising temperature.

Temper: For those alloys that are precipitate hardened, they should always be
welded in the solutionised or overaged condition. They should never be welded
in the aged condition where peak hardness is obtained (and ductility is a

Shielding: Shielding does not only prevent attack from oxygen, it can also control
the arc characteristics and the distribution of heat energy across the weld pool. This
is usually significant in nickel alloy welding.

Filler Materials: The range of nickel alloys is considerable and the alloys have a
wider range of component elements than most other systems. This means that the
choice of filler is usually more significant than for conventional steel welding.

Weld Corrosion: Highly alloyed weld pools are typical in nickel alloy weldments.
These pools are subjected to alloy segregation and this can cause accelerated
corrosion of the weld. For this reason over-alloyed welds are usually specified.

Dissimilar Metal Welding: Ferrous welding normally involves welding one steel
component to another steel component. In nickel alloy welding it is often the case
that different metals are being welded. The procedures necessary when making

Module MAT1. Welding Mettallurgy

Topic 5: Nickel and nickel alloys
University of Wollongong 2001, Cranfield University 2008. All rights reserved


dissimilar metal welds related to thermal expansion, thermal conductivity and alloy
changes caused by intermixing of the dissimilar metals requires special

Because of the cost of high nickel alloys, weld overlaying is a common alternative to using
solid alloy sections in corrosion resistant applications. Overlaying can be done by a weld
deposit laid down over the whole surface or by cladding the surface with sheet material,
often referred to as wall-papering

The welding of material that is manufactured in a clad form, by either roll or explosive
bonding, is also a significant component of high nickel alloy welding.

Quality control of welded joint

In general the methods of quality control used for nickel alloys are the same as those
applied to other welded joints. This involves welding procedure specifications (WPS),
welder performance tests, inspection and testing of joints (mechanical and NDT).
Because of the usually higher costs associated both with the preliminary equipment being
welded and the actual welding operation, trial welds and testing of qualification welds are
more common with this group of alloys. Each country typically has its own standards and

Non-fusion Joining
Brazing and soldering are also common non-fusion joining processes. These processes
depend largely on obtaining a suitable low melting point alloy and developing a suitable flux
to allow initial wetting of the surface are the major problems.
One of the particular advantages of non-fusion joining is the ability to automate the joining
of preassembled components that are self jigging.


Why is cleanliness the most important consideration in the welding of

nickel and its alloys? Name as many cases as you can where
contaminants that can influence the final weld, and state how these
contaminants cause a deterioration of the weld properties.


Describe the causes of solidification cracking and liquation cracking

in nickel alloys and suggest some remedies.

Module MAT1. Welding Mettallurgy

Topic 5: Nickel and nickel alloys
University of Wollongong 2001, Cranfield University 2008. All rights reserved