Palladium (pronounced pəˈleɪdiəm) is a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal that was discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston, who named it palladium after the asteroid Pallas, which in turn, was named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, acquired by her when she slew the giant Pallas. The symbol for palladium is Pd, and its atomic number is 46.
Palladium, along with platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium form a group of elements referred to as the platinum group metals (PGMs). Platinum group metals share similar chemical properties, but palladium has the lowest melting point and is the least dense of these precious metals. When palladium is at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, it can absorb up to 900 times its own volume of hydrogen, which makes palladium an efficient and safe storage medium for hydrogen and hydrogen isotopes. Palladium is also tarnish resistant, electrically stable and resistant to chemical erosion as well as intense heat.
The unique properties of palladium and other platinum group metals account for their widespread use. One in four goods manufactured today either contain platinum group metals or had platinum group metals play a key role during their manufacturing process. Over half of the supply of palladium and its sister metal platinum goes into catalytic converters, which convert up to 90% of harmful gases from auto exhaust (hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide) into less harmful substances (nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor). Palladium’s precious metal qualities and appearance generate significant consumption in the luxury jewelry market. Palladium is found in many electronics including computers, mobile phones, multi-layer ceramic capacitors, component plating, low voltage electrical contacts, and SED/OLED/LCD televisions. Palladium is also used in dentistry, medicine, hydrogen purification, chemical applications, groundwater treatment, and it plays a key role in the technology used for fuel cells, which combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water.
Ore deposits of palladium and other platinum group metals are rare, and the most extensive deposits have been found in the norite belt of the Bushveld Igneous Complex in the Transvaal in South Africa, the Stillwater Complex in Montana, USA, the Sudbury District of Ontario, Canada, and the Norilsk Complex in Russia. In addition to mining, recycling is also a source of palladium, mostly from scrapped catalytic converters. The numerous applications and limited supply sources of palladium result in palladium drawing considerable investment interest.
Wollaston found palladium in crude platinum ore from South America by dissolving the ore in aqua regia, neutralizing the solution with sodium hydroxide, and precipitating platinum as ammonium chloroplatinate with ammonium chloride. He added mercuric cyanide to form the compound palladium cyanide, which was heated to extract palladium metal.
Palladium chloride was at one time prescribed as a tuberculosis treatment at the rate of 0.065g per day (approximately one milligram per kilogram of body weight). This treatment did have many negative side-effects, and was later replaced by more effective drugs.
In the run up to 2000, Russian supply of palladium to the global market was repeatedly delayed and disrupted because the export quota was not granted on time, for political reasons. The ensuing market panic drove the palladium price to an all-time high of $1100 per ounce in January 2001. Around this time, the Ford Motor Company, fearing auto vehicle production disruption due to a possible palladium shortage, stockpiled large amounts of the metal purchased near the price high. When prices fell in early 2001, Ford lost nearly US$1 billion.
World demand for palladium increased from 100 tons in 1990 to nearly 300 tons in 2000. The global production from mines was 420 metric tons in 2006 according to USGS data. Most palladium is used for catalytic converters in the automobile industry.
In 2005, Russia was the top producer of palladium, with at least 50% world share, followed by South Africa, USA and Canada, reports the British Geological Survey.
Palladium may be found as a free metal alloyed with gold and other platinum group metals in placer deposits of the Ural Mountains, Australia, Ethiopia, South and North America. It is commercially produced from nickel-copper deposits found in South Africa, Ontario, and Siberia; the huge volume of ore processed makes this extraction profitable despite the low proportion of palladium in these ores. The world's largest single producer of palladium is MMC Norilsk Nickel produced from the Norilsk–Talnakh nickel deposits. The Merensky Reef of the Bushveld Igneous Complex of South Africa contains significant palladium in addition to other platinum group elements. The Stillwater igneous complex of Montana and the Roby zone orebody of the Lac des Iles igneous complex of Ontario also contain mineable palladium.
Palladium is a soft silver-white metal that resembles platinum. It is the least dense and has the lowest melting point of the platinum group metals. It is soft and ductile when annealed and greatly increases its strength and hardness when it is cold-worked. Palladium dissolves slowly in sulfuric, nitric, and hydrochloric acid. This metal also does not react with oxygen at normal temperatures (and thus does not tarnish in air). Palladium heated to 800°C will produce a layer of palladium(II) oxide (PdO). It lightly tarnishes in moist atmosphere containing sulfur.
The metal has the uncommon ability to absorb up to 900 times its own volume of hydrogen at room temperatures. It is thought that this possibly forms palladium hydride (PdH2) but it is not yet clear if this is a true chemical compound.
When palladium has absorbed large amounts of hydrogen, it will expand slightly in size.
Common oxidation states of palladium are 0,+1, +2 and +4. Although originally +3 was thought of as one of the fundamental oxidation states of palladium, there is no evidence for palladium occurring in the +3 oxidation state; this has been investigated via X-ray diffraction for a number of compounds, indicating a dimer of palladium(II) and palladium(IV) instead. Recently, compounds with an oxidation state of +6 were synthesised.
The primary decay mode before the most abundant stable isotope, 106Pd, is electron capture and the primary mode after is beta decay. The primary decay product before 106Pd is rhodium and the primary product after is silver.
Radiogenic 107Ag is a decay product of 107Pd and was first discovered in the Santa Clara, California meteorite of 1978. The discoverers suggest that the coalescence and differentiation of iron-cored small planets may have occurred 10 million years after a nucleosynthetic event. 107Pd versus Ag correlations observed in bodies, which have clearly been melted since accretion of the solar system, must reflect the presence of short-lived nuclides in the early solar system.
It is also used in plating of electronic components and in soldering materials. The electronic sector consumed 1.07 million troy ounces of palladium in 2006, according to a Johnson Matthey report.
A 2008 study showed that palladium is an effective catalyst for making carbon-fluoride bonds.
Palladium itself has been used as a precious metal in jewelry since 1939, as an alternative to platinum or white gold. This is due to its naturally white properties, giving it no need for rhodium plating. It is slightly whiter, much lighter and about 12% harder than platinum. Similar to gold, palladium can be beaten into a thin leaf form as thin as 100 nm (1/250,000 in). Like platinum, it will develop a hazy patina over time. Unlike platinum, however, palladium may discolor at high soldering temperatures, become brittle with repeated heating and cooling, and react with strong acids.
It can also be used as a substitute for nickel when making white gold. Palladium is one of the three most popular metals used to alloy with gold, making white gold. (Nickel and silver can also be used.) Palladium-gold is a more expensive alloy than nickel-gold, but it's naturally hypoallergenic and holds its white color better.
When platinum was declared a strategic government resource during World War II, many jewelry bands were made out of palladium. As recently as September 2001, palladium was more expensive than platinum and rarely used in jewelry also due to the technical obstacle of casting. However the casting problem has been resolved, and its use in jewelry has increased because of a large spike in the price of platinum and a drop in the price of palladium.
Prior to 2004, the principal use of palladium in jewelry was as an alloy in the manufacture of white gold jewelry, but, beginning early in 2004 when gold and platinum prices began to rise steeply, Chinese jewelers began fabricating significant volumes of palladium jewelry. Johnson Matthey estimated that in 2004, with the introduction of palladium jewelry in China, demand for palladium for jewelry fabrication was 920,000 ounces, or approximately 14% of the total palladium demand for 2004 - an increase of almost 700,000 ounces from the previous year. This growth continued during 2005, with estimated worldwide jewelry demand for palladium of about 1.4 million ounces, or almost 21% of net palladium supply, again with most of the demand centered in China. The popularity of Palladium jewelry is expected to grow in 2008 as the world's biggest producers embark on a joint marketing effort to promote Palladium jewelry worldwide