History of Palladium

History of PalladiumPalladium is one of the platinum group metals (PGM), which consist of iridium, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhodium, and ruthenium. These metals are also sometimes referred to as the “noble” metals due to their resistance to corrosion. Palladium is the least dense and lowest melting of the platinum group metals. It occurs on earth with a relative abundance of 0.0006 parts per million. Besides being a white and malleable metal, at room temperatures it has the unusual property of absorbing up to 900 times its own volume of hydrogen. Hydrogen readily diffuses through heated palladium and this provides a means of purifying the gas.

Palladium was discovered by the British chemist William Hyde Wollaston. Following the perfection of his technique to obtain pure samples of platinum in 1801, he proceeded to isolate palladium from platinum by dissolving native platinum in aqua regia (a mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acid). In August 1802 he named the metal Palladium after the asteroid Pallas that was discovered the preceding March. Keeping his techniques a secret, Wollaston offered samples of palladium for sale anonymously and his peers were cynical about the new metal’s provenance, suspecting that it was an alloy of platinum. This forced him to publish details of his findings in 1805.

Sources of palladium production are quite limited. More than 80% of world palladium production is concentrated in just two countries: the Russian Federation and South Africa. The Russian Federation alone accounts for nearly half of total palladium supply. Outside of Russia, the other significant producing area is the Bushveld Complex in South Africa, where Platinum Group Metals are mined as primary products. Palladium is also mined in smaller deposits in United States and Canada. Mining companies in South Africa and North America are developing expansion plans which will lead to future increases in palladium production.
History of Palladium
By far, the largest worldwide demand for palladium today comes from the auto industry. More ductile and less expensive than platinum, palladium is used by car manufacturers worldwide as a vital component in catalytic converters. In addition to its myriad industrial applications, palladium has also proved to be a popular metal in the making of jewelry. In 2004, demand for palladium for use in jewelry products soared to 920,000 ounces, increasing nearly four times over the previous year. As time goes on, more and more uses for palladium are being realized, affirming the notion that palladium is indeed the metal of the 21st century.

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