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What is Palladium?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Palladium is a lustrous silvery white metal with the atomic number 46 and chemical abbreviation of Pd. It is used in electronics, jewelry, and certain other industries. Because the metal is extremely rare, palladium is considered to be a precious metal, and it can command a high price on the open market. Consumers are probably most familiar with it in the form of alloys with other metals, or inclusion within electronics. When electronics are recycled and stripped down, palladium is one of the metals that is frequently removed so that it can be reused.

The metal was discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston, who named it palladium after the asteroid Pallas. The asteroid, in turn, was named for a Greek Goddess of Wisdom. The metal often occurs in conjunction with platinum, and it is frequently associated with gold, nickel, and copper. It resists tarnish, and is extremely ductile, meaning that it takes readily to working. When palladium is cold worked, the tensile strength greatly increases.

Alloys with palladium are used to make electronic components, especially contacts. It is also used in the manufacture of surgical instruments, and in some jewelry, especially in the production of white gold, which is an alloy of gold with a white metal. The metal is also sometimes used in purification and processing, and it is able to absorb up to 900 times its volume in hydrogen. This property is often harnessed in scientific experiments.

As a member of the platinum group, which also includes metals like rhodium and iridium, palladium is considered a transition metal. It is one of the softer metals in the platinum group, but it retains other valuable properties that are shared by metals in this group. In addition to being tarnish resistant, palladium resists chemical erosion as well as intense heat, and it is highly electrically stable. Many of these metals are used as catalysts because of these well established physical and chemical properties.

While palladium is not the most expensive precious metal, it can be quite costly. On occasion, the market will be scarce, since manufacturers sometimes stockpile it to avoid shortages on important products. The metal is available both in a pure and alloyed form from various supply companies. Special metalworking techniques are required to work with palladium, which can become brittle or discolored if it is not handled properly. Pure palladium jewelry is available through high-end retailers.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a About Mechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon348755 — On Sep 19, 2013

Can palladium create electricity or energy in any way?

By anon286291 — On Aug 20, 2012

I actually got Bosch UK to find out what "Palladium-Glissee Ceramic" actually means and it took a while, but they got back to me.

It is a ceramic soleplate finished or coated with Palladium for smooth ironing. So what you are seeing on the soleplate is the palladium, which is a lightweight metal. The ceramic behind it is hard so it will not dent but it may scratch more easily than a pure ceramic soleplate. So you have to decide, like I do, if the extra advantage of gliding across fabrics - which it does in an amazing way - is worth taking that extra bit of care not to scratch it.

I have compared this iron with a Tefal Superglide with ceramic soleplate side-by-side and the Palladium really does glide.

The light weight does NOT mean it will iron heavy or very wrinkled fabrics with any less efficiency. I am a seamstress and have been using irons for 45 years, and the iron's design, temperature and steam are what irons wrinkles, not the weight.

Personally, I think the light weight is a great advantage and I am glad that Bosch has deviated from their heavy, hard-wearing power tool reputation to make something truly functional and beautiful.

By anon285824 — On Aug 17, 2012

Read what Tesco says about Palladium: "glides better than aluminum, but also scratches easily."

By anon210476 — On Aug 30, 2011

I have a 14K. High Palladium white gold rope chain and I've had it for eight years and it still shines like platinum. So to say that all white gold needs to be rhodium plated is wrong! My white gold rope chain still looks and shines like platinum even after eight years and will keep doing so forever!

By anon207451 — On Aug 20, 2011

is platinum 950 same as a palladium?

By anon75708 — On Apr 07, 2010

I have bought a bosch iron with a palladium glissee ceramic soleplate and don't know whether to take back as its appearance doesn't resemble ceramic as i know it at all. In fact looks quite tinny and light. does anyone know anything about it, good or bad?

By anon75461 — On Apr 06, 2010

palladium is the best jewelry. enough said.

By anon63530 — On Feb 02, 2010

My wife has an allergic reaction to gold. Do people get allergic reactions to palladium?

By harsha1986 — On Mar 08, 2009

what is the effective transition metal for catalyst? why?

what electronic property of palladium used as catalyst?

By anon25705 — On Feb 02, 2009

Can palladium generate electricity?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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