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Raney Nickel vs. Nickel: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on March 3, 2024
Raney nickel is a finely divided, highly active form of nickel used as a catalyst, while nickel is a chemical element with symbol Ni and atomic number 28.

Key Differences

Raney nickel is not pure nickel; it's a catalyst composed of fine grains of a nickel-aluminum alloy. In contrast, nickel in its basic form is a chemical element, found naturally in various ores and as a free metal. Raney nickel's unique properties arise from its micro-structural composition, differentiating it from the more homogeneous and elemental structure of nickel.
Raney nickel is predominantly used as a catalyst in chemical reactions, particularly in hydrogenation processes. Its high surface area makes it extremely effective for this purpose. Nickel, on the other hand, has a broader range of applications, including in stainless steel production, batteries, and even in currency, showcasing its versatility beyond chemical reactions.
The physical properties of Raney nickel and nickel also differ significantly. Raney nickel is a porous, grey powder, highly reactive due to its structure. Pure nickel, in contrast, is a hard, silvery-white metal with a high polish, known for its corrosion resistance and ferromagnetic properties at room temperature.
The development of Raney nickel, named after American engineer Murray Raney, was a significant advancement in catalysis science. Nickel, however, has been known since ancient times and was first isolated and classified as a chemical element by Axel Fredrik Cronstedt in 1751. This historical context underlines the more recent innovation of Raney nickel compared to the long-standing familiarity with elemental nickel.
Handling Raney nickel requires specific safety precautions due to its pyrophoric nature, especially when dry. It is generally stored under a hydrogen atmosphere or submerged in water. Nickel, while also needing safe handling to prevent allergic reactions or toxicity, is generally less hazardous than Raney nickel under normal conditions.

Comparison Chart


Nickel-aluminum alloy
Elemental metal

Main Use

Catalyst in hydrogenation reactions
Stainless steel production, batteries

Physical Form

Porous, grey powder
Hard, silvery-white metal


By Murray Raney in 1920s
Known since ancient times

Safety Concerns

Pyrophoric, stored under hydrogen
Allergenic, toxic in high doses

Raney Nickel and Nickel Definitions

Raney Nickel

Raney nickel is a finely divided nickel-aluminum alloy used as a catalyst.
In the laboratory, Raney nickel was used to catalyze the hydrogenation of an alkene.


Nickel is a chemical element with symbol Ni and atomic number 28.
The coin was made of a copper-nickel alloy.

Raney Nickel

Raney nickel is often used in industrial organic syntheses.
Raney nickel played a crucial role in the large-scale synthesis of a pharmaceutical drug.


It is a hard, malleable, and ductile metal with a silvery-white color.
Nickel's resistance to corrosion makes it ideal for plating metal objects.

Raney Nickel

It is a greyish, porous powder and highly reactive.
The freshly prepared Raney nickel rapidly absorbed hydrogen, demonstrating its reactivity.


Nickel is used in stainless steel, batteries, and as a catalyst.
The stainless steel in the kitchen contained about 8% nickel.

Raney Nickel

It is known for its high surface area and active sites for chemical reactions.
The chemist appreciated Raney nickel's high surface area for efficient catalysis.


It has ferromagnetic properties at room temperature.
The experiment demonstrated the ferromagnetic nature of nickel.

Raney Nickel

Raney nickel is typically stored under specific conditions to maintain its reactivity.
To prevent oxidation, the Raney nickel was stored under a hydrogen atmosphere.


Nickel is found in the Earth's crust in various ores.
The mining company extracted nickel from a pentlandite ore.


Symbol Ni A silvery, hard, ductile, ferromagnetic metallic element used in corrosion-resistant alloys, stainless steel, catalysts for hydrogenation, and batteries, and for electroplating. Atomic number 28; atomic weight 58.69; melting point 1,455°C; boiling point 2,913°C; specific gravity 8.902; valence 0, 1, 2, 3. See Periodic Table.


A coin of the United States or Canada worth five cents.


To coat with nickel.


What are the common uses of nickel?

Nickel is used in stainless steel production, batteries, and as a catalyst.

How is nickel different from Raney nickel?

Nickel is a chemical element, while Raney nickel is an alloy used for its catalytic properties.

Is Raney nickel naturally occurring?

No, Raney nickel is a man-made alloy created for specific industrial applications.

Is nickel magnetic?

Yes, nickel has ferromagnetic properties at room temperature.

What precautions are needed when handling Raney nickel?

Raney nickel should be handled carefully, often stored under hydrogen or water to prevent oxidation.

What are the main uses of Raney nickel?

Raney nickel is primarily used as a catalyst in hydrogenation reactions.

Where is nickel found?

Nickel is found in the Earth's crust, primarily in ore forms like pentlandite and laterite.

What is the atomic number of nickel?

Nickel has an atomic number of 28.

What is Raney nickel?

Raney nickel is a porous, finely divided nickel-aluminum alloy used as a catalyst.

What are the environmental impacts of nickel mining?

Nickel mining can impact the environment, including water pollution and habitat destruction.

Can Raney nickel be used in environmental applications?

Raney nickel is primarily used in chemical industries, not typically in environmental applications.

Is nickel safe for human use?

Nickel is generally safe, but some people may have allergic reactions to it.

Is nickel a rare element?

Nickel is relatively abundant in the Earth's crust, making it not a rare element.

Can Raney nickel be used in any reaction?

Raney nickel is most effective in hydrogenation reactions and similar catalytic processes.

Who discovered nickel?

Nickel was first isolated by Swedish chemist Axel Fredrik Cronstedt.

Can Raney nickel be recycled?

Recycling Raney nickel is challenging due to its high reactivity and specific use in reactions.

How is nickel extracted from ores?

Nickel is extracted through various processes, including roasting and reduction.

Is Raney nickel used in the food industry?

No, Raney nickel is not used in the food industry due to its high reactivity.

Who discovered Raney nickel?

Raney nickel was developed by American engineer Murray Raney.

What color is nickel?

Nickel is silvery-white in color.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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