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Cornell iGEM

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Project Background

Health Risks

Nickel, is an essential natural element that constitutes approximately 0.009% of the earth's crust. It exists as components of other minerals; Nickel sulfides, silicates and oxides are three of the most important nickel minerals from a mining and natural resource perspective [EPA paper, source 2]. The most common nickel sulfide mineral is pentlandite [(NiFe)9S8] accounts for the majority of nickel produced globally [source 4,5]. 40% of domestic nickel production comes from the smelting of natural nickel ores or refining nickel matte, an impure metallic sulfide product from smelting of sulfides of metal ores. The other 60% of domestic nickel production comes from reclamation of nickel metal from nickel based or non-nickel based scrap metal, including salvaged machinery, sheet metal, aircraft and other vehicular parts and discarded consumer goods such as batteries. Nickel compounds are used in construction, mining, smelting, electrical equipment manufacturing, and battery and fuel cell production, among numerous other materials. During construction, there is a high risk for nickel contamination. They can also make their way into the household through ceramics since they often form the bond between enamel and iron. Nickel compounds are so toxic because they are highly resistant to corrosion and oxidation in air and aqueous environments; they are resistant to corrosion by organic acids and exposure to chlorine, fluorine, hydrogen chloride and molten salts. However, extremely oxidizing acids like nitric acid can often do the trick to break down nickel compounds.

Case Studies

Current Remediation Techniques



  1. Ref 1
  2. Ref 2
  3. Ref 3