Palladium – A Metal More Precious than Gold

Overview

You might have noticed that palladium is listed in the metal’s exchanges along with gold and platinum. That is because it is one of the most precious metals found on Earth. Palladium is a silvery, shiny metal that gives color to white gold. It was discovered in 1803 by an English chemist William Hyde Wollaston. The metal was first isolated following a series of chemical reactions that involved dissolving platinum with several other acids, including hydrochloric acid and nitric acid. However, it was not until 1805 that the researchers working on discovering this precious metal declared it as a newly found element. 

The rare metal, palladium, gets its name from “pallas” which is the third-largest asteroid in the asteroid belt and was discovered in 1802, shortly before the discovery of palladium. 

Chemically, Palladium is one of six elements in the platinum group which consists of the following:

  • Platinum 
  • Rhodium
  • Ruthenium
  • Osmium and 
  • Iridium 

These elements’ chemical structure makes them an excellent catalyst and therefore, they have wide industrial applications. But before we get into its uses, let’s look at a few facts about this rare metal. 

  • Symbol – Pd 
  • Atomic Number – 46
  • Atomic Weight – 106.4
  • Density – 12.02 g/cm3
  • State at Room Temperature – Solid
  • Melting Point – 2,831oF
  • Boiling Point – 5,360 oF
  • # of isotopes – 29
  • The metal is malleable and ductile 
  • Palladium does not react with air

Uses of Palladium 

Let’s look at some of the most common uses of palladium and the industries that use it.

Automotive 

One of the biggest industrial users of palladium in the automotive industry, where the metal is used as a catalytic converter. It works by changing most polluting compounds’ chemical composition so they become less environmentally harmful chemicals. For years, palladium was the top choice for catalysts, but given the significant increase in the price of the metal, automotive manufacturers are starting to look for less pricey alternatives. 

Precious Metals

Another common use of palladium is its use as an investment asset. Given the metal’s rarity, it is one of the highly valued investments and is considered a safe store of value. It is because of its value that the palladium coins and bars have been issued and used as an investment by investors around the world. 

Jewelry 

Palladium in White Gold Jewelry
Palladium in White Gold Jewelry Photo: Pexels

While yellow, traditional gold is still preferred for jewelry, white gold is another popular metal. Palladium is used as one of the alloys that give the strength, color and shiny texture to white gold. Its pure form is malleable and soft with a 950 fineness.

Dentistry

Palladium is also used in dental amalgams. The rare metal is combined with small amounts of silver, copper, mercury and tin to help fight against dental corrosion. Moreover, it improves the stability and quality of dental fillings. While palladium is used in minimal quantities, use in dentistry is one of its most critical uses. 

Other Uses 

  • The use in electronic industry 
  • In the manufacturing of professional, concert-grade flutes
  • Photographic printing 
  • Fuel cells, including hydrogen purification 

What Makes Palladium More Valuable than Gold?

Investment Graph
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Now that you already know what palladium is and what are some of its common uses, let’s look at the most important question. What makes palladium more valuable than gold?

In 2019, palladium was one of the four most expensive metals along with gold and platinum. But the trend continued long after 2019, and the precious metal is still one of the most expensive metals out there. Here are a few reasons for the increasing price trend. 

The demand for palladium, particularly from the automotive industry, continued to rise as the world became more environmentally friendly and the demand from China particularly rose as pollution is a major concern. 

Moreover, the supply side didn’t respond much to the rising demand. The metal is primarily mined in South Africa and Russia and the producers are not proactive in reacting to the increasing demand. In 2021, the supply fell short of the demand for the 10th year in a row. 

Did You Know?

  • According to the USGS, the U.S. is one of the biggest platinum group importers (which also includes palladium). 
  • Palladium has an incredible power to absorb hydrogen. This rare metal can absorb up to 900 times its volume of hydrogen. Because of this ability, palladium is widely used to purify and store highly volatile hydrogen gas. 
  • Palladium is used for photo printing that makes your photographs look long-lasting. The process uses palladium salts, which become embedded in the photo paper and give it a matte appearance and longevity. 
  • While palladium is relatively inactive, gold jewelry can cause allergic reactions in some people. If you already have a nickel allergy, you are at a higher risk of sensitivity from palladium as well. 
  • Palladium can be somewhat toxic for the human body, but the metal decreases the heart rate and blood pressure. Moreover, it can lead to kidney and liver damage as well as cause damage to the bone marrow. Compounds of palladium such as palladium chloride can be toxic when inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin. 

Latest on the Precious Metal 

The supply of palladium has been falling short for a decade now, but here is some good news about this precious metal. Researchers at Brown University and Rhode Island have found a new way to use the cheaper palladium nanoparticles, which work as a kind of catalytic converter to facilitate water filtration. 

The prototype water filtration system is currently under testing. The objective is to find out if the system can work on a larger scale at a low cost. 

Moreover, research in other areas such as hydrogen storage ability is also underway. Soon other considerations may materialize for palladium. But investing in pallidum to diverse your investment portfolio might not be a bad idea in the long run, especially during this COVID crises. We will just have to wait and see. 

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