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Palladium is a noble precious metal element. PD is its chemical symbol and its atomic number is 46 on the periodic table.
Metals, including palladium, are typically defined as malleable or ductile. Meaning they can be hammered into thin sheets and drawn into wires. Metal is more technically defined in physics as a substance capable of conducting electricity at a temperature of absolute zero.
A metal may be a chemical element, such as palladium, iron, copper and gold, or an alloy. Alloys are combinations of metals and other materials. Examples of alloys are - steel; a combination of iron and carbon - bronze; a combination of copper and tin - and brass; a mix of copper and zinc.
Refined palladium is labelled as noble because it is resistant to chemical action, does not corrode and is not easily attacked by acids. As well as palladium, the remaining noble metals are ruthenium, rhodium, silver, osmium, iridium, platinum and gold. Other metals are referred to as being base metals.
Of the noble metals palladium, ruthenium, rhodium, osmium, iridium, and platinum are classed as being in the 'Platinum-Group'. They all share similar properties and are mined from similar platinum ore deposits. Palladium is the least dense of the platinum-group, has the lowest melting point and a density of 11.9 g/cm 3 at room temperature.
As a geologic element palladium is extremely rare. The largest producing nations are Russia, South Africa, the United States and Canada. In addition to natural geologic sources, it is possible to produce palladium from nuclear fission. Today, however, this has not been done commercially.
A selection of investment palladium bars and coins from BullionByPost
Industrial demand for the production of fuel, electrical contacts and surgical instruments is huge. Plus, palladium, rather than platinum, is increasingly being used in car exhaust catalytic converters.
Consequently palladium is very precious and commands an extremely high price on the commodities markets. As such, Palladium coins and bars are now being considered by some investors, as an additional or alternative safe haven and hedge investment to gold.
The PD element was identified and named anonymously by the English chemist and physicist William Hyde Wollaston in 1802. A year later he later also discovered rhodium. It was not until 1805 that he revealed himself as the discoverer.
Here are ten interesting facts about the PD element:
- Palladium was named by William Hyde Wollaston after the asteroid Pallas.
When it was first discovered a leading chemist, Richard Chenevix, refused
to believe palladium was an element. He was even given prestigious science
awards for his work, showing it to be an alloy of platinum and mercury.
Palladium is so scarce that there is just 1 to 10 parts per trillion in the earth's
- It is four times rarer than gold.
Palladium can absorb up to 900 times its own volume of hydrogen. It is used
extensively to store and filter this gas.
Palladium was used as an early treatment for tuberculosis. This ceased after
extremely harmful side effects were seen.
- It is half as dense as platinum.
- Palladium is the least noble metal due to its greater reactivity.
- It can be hammered to sheets less than a millionth of a centimetre thick.
- Palladium can catch fire when ground into a powder.