ice machine installationWhen thinking of precious metals, it’s typically gold, silver, and platinum that come to Refinery Equipment mind. They’re generally talked about and more publicized than others both as jewelry and in financial markets. But there’s another precious metal out there that’s more ubiquitous than you might realize. It’s called palladium, and odds are you use it every day.

What is Palladium?

In the periodic table of elements, palladium is considered a precious metal and has an atomic number of 46. More specifically, it’s part of the so-called “platinum group metals”, lumped together for their similar properties. As a metal, palladium is unique for its soft, malleable texture and is the least dense has the lowest melting point of the PGM metals. Though it gleams and is very resistant to tarnishing, it’s not often used decoratively or in jewelry except as an occasional replacement for silver.

Palladium as an Investment

Recently, precious metals like palladium have grown substantially in popularity among investors. Amid worries about inflation and a falling dollar, people have been flocking to what they consider to be a relatively safe investment – commodities. While precious metals such as gold and silver can be bought on the New York Mercantile Exchange, an alternate route is necessary for purchasing palladium. Many find that the the easiest way to buy it is through a palladium focused Equity Traded Fund, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. For those who prefer the real thing, physically buying palladium in the form of coins or bars is possible as well.

Palladium’s performance in the commodities market, much like gold and silver, has been impressive in the last few years. In the beginning of 2009, palladium was hovering in the $200 per ounce price range. Since then, it has increased an astonishing 400%, rising to levels in the $800 range per ounce. While this does not speak to future performance, it’s clear that the metal has been a solid choice for investors in the recent past.

Palladium In Industry

As mentioned before, palladium is being used more and more mostly because it’s cheaper than the platinum it resembles. But the far and away most common use for palladium in industry is actually in vehicle manufacturing.

Every modern car has a piece of equipment in its exhaust system called a catalytic converter. Usually located between the “header” pipes that come from the engine and the pipe that goes toward the muffler, it helps to clean the air that the vehicle spits out. States One of the main active ingredients in this piece of equipment is palladium, whose chemical properties facilitate air purification. While some argue that platinum is a better overall purifier in catalytic converters, palladium’s lower price and relative effectiveness make it more practical for automobile manufacturers to use consistently. The only real exceptions are diesel engines, which run at a lower temperature and are much better suited for the use of platinum.

As the automobile industry continues to grow, use of palladium is expected to increase in the future. With more and more cars on the road, more physical palladium will be needed to help minimize their harmful emissions. The result, of course, is that the fundamental future of palladium – both as an investment and a practical, usable metal – seems strong.