Metals manufacturing makes up a significant component of Canada's economy. Through methods based on metal electrodeposition reactions, Canada makes more than $5 billion worth of electrolytically produced metals a year. Metal electrodeposition is also used in electroplating in electronic devices and automotive parts, in ornamentation and in finishing many commercial goods. Although technologies used in electrolytic metals production and in electroplating are quite mature, many methods were developed by trial and error, and their scientific basis is poorly understood.

New tools for "in situ" studies of the morphology, surface composition and crystallography of electrodeposited metals have resulted from spectacular advances in surface imaging techniques, such as atomic force microscopy (AFM), and in synchrotron-based X-ray absorption spectroscopies, including X-ray absorption near edge spectroscopy (XANES) and extended X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy (EXAFS). In collaboration with INCO Ltd. and the Centre for Chemical Process Metallurgy, University of Guelph researchers simulate industrial electrorefining to investigate copper and nickel electrodeposition reactions. By understanding how metal electrodeposition works at the molecular level, they hope to place electrorefining and electroplating on a sound scientific footing.

Another important aspect of electrometallurgy is metal dissolution, a process used by the microelectronics industry in printing electronic circuits. The same process also causes metals to deteriorate during corrosion. Corrosion protection constitutes one of our most important economic and technological challenges. Led by Prof. Jacek Lipkowski, and in collaboration with Ontario Hydro and Atomic Energy of Canada, centre members have developed a mixture of inhibitors recently certified for use in Canadian nuclear reactors to protect against corrosion of coolant circuits. The project is an example of a successful University-Industry collaboration that developed new Canadian technology and transferred knowledge from University to Industry.