Besides gold, silver and platinum, palladium is one of the four precious metals. Its appearance is silvery white and shiny. It is not quite as soft as platinum, which it almost always occurs together with in nature. Thanks to its properties, palladium can easily be forged and, like gold, rolled into thin sheets or foils. In its compact form at between 20 and 21 degrees Celsius, palladium can absorb almost 380 times its volume in hydrogen. In Nature, Palladium only occurs in very small quantities and occasionally in its pure form together with platinum ore.
Palladium is very rare, but is more abundant than gold or platinum. The precious metal is also referred to as “cheap platinum” because both precious metals have similar chemical properties, although platinum is more expensive than palladium. For this reason, palladium is used as a substitute when platinum supplies are short. Palladium is a by-product in the production of nickel, copper, lead, silver, gold and platinum. It occurs during the extraction of nickel and is also frequently mined together with platinum.
Palladium is used primarily in the automotive and electrical industry and in medicine. In this areas, it is used in small quantities as a catalyst in chemical reactions on activated carbon or silicic acid. Palladium is also being used as a storage medium for hydrogen in hydrogen cars currently in development. It is also used in fuel cells as an electrode material. The silvery white metal is required by the jewelry industry to produce white gold, which is an alloy of gold and palladium.
Palladium was first discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston and was named after the recently discovered asteroid Pallas. This was itself named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, acquired by her when she slew Pallas. The most important trading venues for palladium are the New York Mercantile Exchange (COMEX) and the London Bullion Market.