Inspectioneering Journal

Electroless Nickel Surface Coatings

Primer and Case Histories

By Allan McIntyre at Cenovus Energy, Elias Soto at Cenovus Energy, Len Adler at Cenovus Energy, and Bruce Levan at Levan Engineering Ltd. This article appears in the May/June 2012 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


Electroless nickel (ENC) is a family of coatings based on nickel-phosphorous metallic compounds. ENC was developed in 1943 by Abner Brenner, an electrochemist at the U.S. Bureau of Standards. While working on the electroplating of nickel onto nickel- tungsten surfaces, Brenner added hypophosphite chemical to the plating solution as a way to control surface oxidation. This addition increased the electric current efficiency, indicating the hypophosphite was promoting nickel deposition and supplementing the electroplating current. The research department of General American Transportation Corporation (GATC) built on Brenner’s work and commercialized the “KANIGEN” ENC process in 1952. The term KANIGEN is derived as follows:

KA = catalytic, NI = nickel, GEN = generation

KANIGENTM is a registered trademark used by licensed companies in Europe, U.S., and Asia. In today’s global marketplace, KANIGENTM is one of many ENC brands. Innovative companies have developed new ENC products in response to customer needs. Examples include: ENC with industrial diamonds for abrasive applications, and ENC with PTFE particles to reduce friction.

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