What Is Palladium

What is palladium? This precious metal is one of the least-known commodities, but it's shiny, valuable and definitely worth knowing.

What is palladium, exactly?
No, palladium isn't a character from a 70s-era role-playing game; palladium is a precious metal. Most often seen as a silver-white metal, palladium is used in many applications. However, because palladium is so rare, it's considered a precious metal, much like gold, and is highly valuable-and expensive-for that reason. In fact, palladium is produced in such small quantities that it is 10 times as rare as gold.

The properties of palladium.
Palladium was discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston, who named the metal after the asteroid Pallas. Palladium is strong and durable, and it resembles platinum in appearance. It is wear- and tarnish-resistant, and it can withstand high heats. Palladium is ductile, making it easy to work, and it's also good for cold working to increase tensile strength.

Palladium in industry and electronics.
Fifty percent of palladium production goes into the auto industry, as palladium is a key component in manufacturing catalytic converters. Palladium is also highly valued in electronics applications, including as electrodes in multi-layer ceramic capacitors and for connector platings in consumer electronics. In addition, Palladium is sometimes used as a soldering material.

Palladium in jewelry.
Because palladium is such an attractive metal, as well as tarnish- and wear-resistant, it's sometimes used in jewelry applications. Palladium is an alternative to white gold or platinum, as it resembles both of these metals with no additional treatment or processing. It's lighter and harder than platinum, and it is often used in making white gold alloys.

Palladium as an alloy.
Palladium alloys are versatile, and they allow palladium to serve in many different applications. Some palladium alloys are suitable for use in dentistry, while others are ideal for jewelry. Some palladium alloys are perfect for clock gears or other small moving parts, as this metal is extremely durable and wear-resistant.

Palladium in science.
Palladium has an interesting quality that makes it highly useful in experimental science applications; it can absorb up to 900 times its own volume in hydrogen atoms. Scientists are studying this application of palladium to explore hydrogen storage options, as well as the development of metal hydrides.

Palladium as an investment option.
Like other commodities, palladium is a good vehicle for investment. The uses for palladium are diverse and growing, with the demand for palladium rising in jewelry applications. However, palladium is used extensively in the auto industry, and fluctuations in the auto industry make it difficult to pinpoint how the supply and demand of palladium may behave in the near future and long term. Palladium is currently one of the more affordable commodities, but investors should thoroughly evaluate the role palladium can play in a portfolio before buying this potentially volatile investment.

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