The invention of monel valves and their use in the petrochemical industry

The use of monel valves has increased over the past decade as a measure to combat corrosive and unfriedly industrial environments. Monel K500, Monel 400, A494 MR-35-1 are often used in HF Acid applications.
By: Arturo Velan Contreras
Oct. 1, 2011 - PRLog -- the invention of the first nickel alloy developed by the International Nickel Company and patented in 1906 that ultimately came to be known as Monel alloy 400, used in  monel valves. The early applications are discussed and contrasted with current uses. From this beginning, a number of nickel-copper alloys were developed, one of which became the first age-hardenable nickel alloy. Developed in the 1920s, the alloy is still known as Monel alloy K-500 (

Monel can arguably be considered the first nickel-based, corrosion-resistant alloy developed ( Essentially a binary alloy of nickel and copper, its ratio of nickel to copper is the same as that found in the ore from which it is derived. Thus, it can also be considered a "natural" alloy. Patented in 1906, Monel has seen use in many different applications in many different industries in the last hundred years, from huge naval leviathans to tiny electronic components and from food processing to gasoline production to electric power generation ( The alloy and its descendants are still widely used and it seems likely that trend will continue into the next century and beyond.

At the dawn of the 20th century, the International Nickel Company (Inco) was formed by the merger of the Canadian Copper Company of Ontario and the Orford Copper Company in New Jersey. Canadian Copper Ontario had extensive holdings in the recently discovered nickel-copper ore bodies near Sudbury, Ontario while Orford Copper owned a patented process referred to as "tops and bottoms" for refining nickel and copper from that ore. By 1905 the company's production of nickel from the Canadian matte ores exceeded that from the silicate ores of New Caledonia in the South Pacific and Canada became the world's leading producer of nickel, a position it continues to hold today.

At that time, D.H. Browne, the metallurgical engineer at the Copper Cliff works, postulated that oxidation of the metals in the matte ore followed by reduction of those metal oxides with charcoal could produce a nickel/copper master alloy to which zinc could be added to form German silver, a popular "stainless" material used for instruments, jewelry, tine tools, etc. This process was much more economical than the conventional method of alloying independently refined nickel and copper with zinc. Browne, working with Robert Stanley, assistant manager of the works, was successful in developing the process to accomplish the production of the refined nickel/copper alloy. On January 30, 1906, U.S. patent 811,239 was issued to Ambrose Monell, then president of the three-year old Inco, for "a new and useful improvement in the manufacture-of nickel-copper alloys." As is stated in the Monell patent, the process included smelting, "bessemerization," calcining, and oxide reduction.

While Browne's plan to make German silver from the nickel/copper alloy was indeed possible, it was determined that the resulting alloy of about 70% nickel and 30% copper-the natural ratio of those elements in the matte ore-had some quite interesting properties as produced. The new alloy was silvery white, brighter than nickel, stronger than steel, and more resistant to corrosion in saltwater and sulfuric acid than bronze. In honor of the company's president, the product was named "Monel" metal.1

The fledgling company moved forward with commercialization of the alloy by outworking production such that in 1907 more than a quarter million kilogrsms of Monel metal products were sold. Just one year later in 1908, the company received its largest order to date, that being 119,748 kilograms of Monel sheet for the roof of the then-newly constructed Pennsylvania Railroad Station ("Penn Station") in New York City. The roof was installed in 1909. By then there were already 23 recorded applications for Monel ranging from battleship propellers to golf club heads.2

The properties of the new alloy surprised many. A Monel shaft in a pump in the company's plant water processing system on New York Harbor did not corrode. The alloy resisted atmospheric corrosion in New York City much better than copper. Monel resisted sulfuric acid so well that it became the standard alloy of choice for pickling equipment in the steel industry. Clearly, the alloy proved to be worth further investigation and investment. Inco contracted Columbia University to evaluate and define the properties of the new alloy to help establish applications for it.

Commercial production of Monel products was a challenge to Inco as they had no facilities for thermal or mechanical processing. This was solved by cooperative agreements with existing metal processors: the American Sheet and Tin Plate Company and West Penn Steel manufactured sheet. Central Iron and Steel rolled plate, and Crucible Steel Company made rods.3

The new alloy was not easily cast. To solve problems in the foundry, Inco formed the Bayonne Casting Company in Bayonne, New Jersey. In its first year of existence, the Bayonne Works produced 5,443 kg of Monel metal. Navies of the world became interested in the excellent resistance of Monel to corrosion by seawater. The U.S. Navy battleship North Dakota was fitted with three-blade Monel propellers 4 meters in diameter weighing 6,800 kg. Each blade was cast in one piece. In a short time, over 40 propellers were cast for U.S. Navy vessels. Other navies ordered Monel components such that in four years, production at the Bayonne Works had risen to 127,000 kg. Monel alloy components proved themselves in service in the United States and British navies during World War I, establishing the alloy as the prime choice for severe marine service to present times.

Monel also contributed to the air war in World War I. The Curtis JN4-D American aircraft called the "Jenny" used a Monel metal water jacket to cool its 90 horsepower engine. And, U.S. military identification tags (later referred to as dog tags) were made of Monel to ensure that rusting did not occur regardless of the environment in which the soldier was lighting.

Soon after the end of the war, Inco launched a major advertising campaign to advance sales and applications of Monel. Marketing studies found that the potential market for Monel products was well beyond the capacity of Inco's toll working facilities. There was also an obvious need for an in-house quality-control system to maintain product integrity. It was time for Inco to expand from the melting and foundry business to that of thermal and mechanical processing as well. The company spent $3 million to build a melting and processing facility in Huntington, West Virginia for the development and production of nickel alloys. On May 25,1922, the Huntington Works officially began production. The first shipment of Monel alloy sheet went to the American Laundry Company in Cincinnati, Ohio for production of the recently developed electrically heated commercial laundry washers.

New applications for Monel metal evolved at an ever-quickening pace in the 1920s and 1930s. It was a popular choice for kitchen hardware and food processing equipment because of its resistance to corrosion by acidic food stuffs (e.g., vegetable and fruit juices). Like pure nickel, it could be easily sterilized. Kitchen sinks; hot water heater tanks; commercial-scale cooking pots, vats, and transfer piping; and washing equipment were all commonly built of Monel.4

The alloy's ability to be sterilized made it popular for construction of medical equipment. As early as 1916, high-pressure steam sterilizers were fabricated from Monel.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, architectural hardware including rooling, gutters, flashing, and ornamental details for large municipal buildings was a major market for Monel. Its use continues today though perhaps to a lesser extent due to changing styles.

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Grupo Compás is a premier alloy valve stockist of duplex, super duplex, alloy 20, monel alloy 400, hastelloy, inconel alloy 600 and incoloy alloy 800 valves in stock, and can also offer them on short manufactuing lead times.
Source:Arturo Velan Contreras
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Tags:Monel, Alloy, Hastelloy, Inconel, Duplex, Valves, Valve, Titanium, Incoloy, A182 F91, A182 F51, CY-40, Hastelloy B3
Industry:Industrial, Engineering, Environment
Location:Barcelona - Spain
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Page Updated Last on: Oct 01, 2011
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