Self-ignition of nickel on air

Self-ignition of small nickel particles in air after drying

Scientific name: Oxidation of nickel by atmospheric oxygen


Raney Nickel (pyrophoric)

Самовоспламенение никеля на воздухе


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Always follow general safety recommendations. Please note that conducting chemistry experiments you must comply with the relevant legal procedures in your country.

Reaction formula

2 Ni + O2 → 2 NiO

2 Al + 2 NaOH + 6 H2O → 2 Na[Al(OH)4] + 3 H2

Step-by-step instruction

WARNING! This experiment is dangerous! You should NOT perform this at home. ONLY carry out this experiment, if you are a trained chemist, and you understand local safety and legal requirements, which are required to perform such experiments

  1. Pour 3 g of Raney nickel into a beaker.
  2. Add 20 ml of the alkaline solution into the beaker.
  3. Heat the mixture, using a spirit lamp or a gas burner. Gas bubbles should form.
  4. After the end of gas releasing, leave the beaker to cool.
  5. Change the water above the precipitate several times.
  6. Wash the precipitate several times with alcohol.
  7. Transfer the nickel to filter paper.
  8. After a while, observe the burning of nickel and formation of sparks.

Scientific background

Nickel is a sufficiently active metal which is able to oxidize in air. However, the regular nickel metal pieces have a small surface area, which is covered with a protective layer of nickel oxide, so they are stable in air.

Raney nickel is a mixture of nickel and aluminum. Aluminum may be etched from alloy with alkali because aluminum is soluble in alkali, but nickel is not soluble. After this treatment, fine particles of nickel are formed, which can spontaneously ignite in air when dry (after drying with alcohol).


Published on 13 June 2015

  • Fire
  • Heating with fire
  • Explosion
  • Poisoned gas
  • Organic
  • Electricity
  • Solution
  • Oxidation reduction
  • Color change
  • Precipitate
  • Gassing
  • Catalyst