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Palladium round from Stillwater, A. Jonathan BuhalisPalladium History by Jonathan Buhalis

Palladium's name is derived from Pallas, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Palladium has a history that is sealed with that of platinum, with which it is found, and with which it is also associated as a member of the platinum metals group, also known as the noble metals. "Native platinum" refers to the natively occurring platinum, which is not actually pure platinum at all, but rather a natively alloyed mix of platinum group metals including palladium. Palladium was not separated from platinum for quite some time after the discovery of native platinum so its early history is a shared one.

Following the perfection of his technique to obtain pure samples of platinum in 1801, William Hyde Wollaston went on to isolate palladium from platinum two years later by dissolving native platinum in aqua regia (a mixture of hydrochloric and nitric acid). He named it after Pallas, the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom whose name had also been recently lent to the second asteroid ever discovered.

In an attempt to keep his techniques a secret, Wollaston offered samples of palladium for sale anonymously and his peers were cynical about the new metal's provenance, suspecting that it was an alloy of platinum. This forced him to publish details of his findings in 1805.

It took nearly two centuries for palladium's significance to be recognized, and the fight against global pollution owes a lot to this unique metal. The use of palladium really took off in the 1970s when demand for catalytic converters - in which its remarkable properties play a key role increased as automobile emission standards were introduced in the developed world. As these standards were tightened and applied globally in the 90s, demand for palladium expanded enormously.

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