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To many Canadians, nickel is a five-cent coin with the beaver on one of its faces. However, the value of this transition element far exceeds that of pocket change.
The name nickel was shortened from the German "Kupfernickel" meaning "Devil's copper." It was discovered by A.F. Cronstedt in 1751. Canada is a world producer of this metal, with the largest Canadian deposit residing at Voisey's Bay.
Biologically, nickel is essential to some species. Experiments have shown that chicks and rats raised on a nickel-deficient diet develop liver problems. This element is also an important component of some bacterial and plant enzymes. Although nickel is not an essential element for humans, nickel compounds are present in our diet.
Silvery-white nickel is a malleable, ductile metal. As it resists corrosion, this transition element is a popular constituent of coin currency. Nickel is frequently electroplated on other metals to provide a protective coating. Most of the world production of this element is used for nickel alloys. Cutlery makes use of nickel-chromium alloys whereas a combination of nickel with copper and zinc produces the so-called "German silver" found in ornamental and domestic objects.
At the National Research Council's (NRC) Aerospace Manufacturing Technology Centre scientists are working toward improving the forging processes of nickel and titanium based alloys as well as achieving more efficient means of cutting these materials.