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Nornickel to add new nickel and cobalt alloys to its range

Russia-based Nornickel has begun prototyping new nickel- and cobalt-based alloys, which are of high demand in the aviation, space, nuclear, chemical and oil and gas industries. The project is implemented at the company’s Kola Division.

Nornickel’s Kola Division in Russia is represented by Kola MMC, a wholly owned key production site. Kola MMC is Nornickel’s nickel refining hub, located on the Kola Peninsula, the Murmansk Region.


Nornickel worker in a nickel electrowinning shop at Kola Division

The new alloys offer unique features thanks to their chemical composition, with the mass fraction of nickel exceeding 50% (going up to 90% in certain cases) and cobalt content of up to 20%. Their features include resistance to high temperatures and aggressive environments (acids and alkalis) and durability at extremely low temperatures.

One of the key factors behind these unique properties is alloy purity, or minimum non-metal content. Non-metallic inclusions are known to cause cracks and defects in alloy-based products under considerable external stress or high temperatures.

The nickel alloy market is estimated at around USD 10 billion and expected to grow by 8–10% over the next five years. That is why we see a great opportunity for Nornickel to enter new high value-added markets and actively promote nickel, the company’s strategic product.

—Denis Sharypin, Head of the Marketing Department

Nornickel emphasizes refining the melts used in the production of its innovative alloys, as even the highest-grade nickel and cobalt feedstock is no guarantee of a pure product. Rare earth metals are used as refining additives.

We compare not only smelting techniques for nickel and cobalt alloys, but also ways to refine the melted substances we get. This allows us to perform comparative analysis of these refining techniques and how well they work with different nickel and cobalt grades as our main charging materials.

—Victor Kucheryaev, Head of Projects, Technology Innovation Department

A primary comparative analysis using high-resolution electron microscopy identifies dispersity and chemical composition parameters of non-metallic inclusions and helps locate them within the metal. In nickel alloys, impurities most affect creep rupture strength, plastic flow and cyclic fatigue. These measures indicate how well an item made of the alloy would perform in a real-life environment.

Another important factor besides the alloy formula is compliance with the technical requirements for deflection and heat treatment. Most nickel alloys used by the aviation and space industries are very sensitive to any deviation from these requirements, with a mere 5 ˚C fluctuation leading to irreversible changes in the microstructure and resulting in a defective product.

Further tests of the new alloys are expected soon, including those related to thermomechanical parameters of forging, hot rolling and heat treatment. These tests will identify the best consumer properties when it comes to microstructure, short- and long-term fatigue strength, and resistance to corrosion and aggressive environments.

Full-cycle research including laboratory and pilot prototyping in conjunction with leading R&D centers and prospective customers provides a way to raise the value of Nornickel metals and test them in a real-life environment as soon as the early research stages. Meanwhile, using Nornickel’s own nickel and cobalt helps optimize production costs for nickel alloys where the share of our metals is 50% or more.

—Anna Korotchenkova, Head of the Technology Innovation Department

Nornickel is Russia’s leading metals and mining company and the world’s largest high-grade nickel and palladium producer.


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