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Green Palladium Recycling Technology: The Best Way to Combat Soaring Palladium Prices

By CTimes
Published: Mar 21,2019

Palladium (PD) is the shining star of the current precious metals market with rapidly soaring prices. At the end of 2018, the price of palladium had exceeded that of gold, and currently the value of palladium is quoted as being up to $1,500 per ounce, which is over $100 higher than the price of gold, making it a very expensive precious metal.

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The price of palladium is not only rapidly growing, but also is of a magnitude which has caught people off guard. In fact, this year (in accordance with the February 28 trading price) the value has already increased by 23%, and last year it grew by 47%. Moreover, during the last three years it has experienced a growth rate of 220%. Hence, the cost of palladium has become a production concern for related manufacturers.

Supply Does Not Meet Demand for Palladium Metals Applications

The soaring price of palladium is of course related to its being a rare precious metal. Palladium is categorized as a platinum-based metal, and it shares similar properties with the following five other metals, namely platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium; hence, they are collectively known as the six platinum metals. In addition, palladium mines are very rare with most production limited to the following six locations: Transvaal, South Africa, Montana, USA, Ontario, Canada, and Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Consequently, scrap items containing palladium are rare to come by.

Figure 1 :  
Figure 1 :  

Another factor in the rapidly increasing price of palladium is its increasing global demand. Based on its unique "oxygen" properties, palladium has become an excellent catalyst material which is extensively utilized in a wide variety of electronic motors and automotive applications, making it one of the most important industrial raw materials.

Hence, palladium can be commonly seen in automotive catalytic converters, proton exchange membranes for fuel cells, and in contact points for electrical connections. In addition, based on the requirements of current environmental regulations, catalytic converters have become standard equipment which must be installed in factories for fuel-powered automobiles. Meanwhile, environmental standards for exhaust emissions are also increasing yearly; therefore, the price of palladium has dramatically increased and strongly impacted automobile manufacturers.

According to the world’s largest research study into platinum group metal processing and sales by Johnson Matthey, this year the supply gap in the palladium market is set to reach one million ounces. The primary reason for this is that global emissions standards are becoming stricter, which is, in turn, driving demand for palladium in catalytic converters. At the same time, the supply cannot keep up with the demand, and this is further pushing up the price of palladium.

As for in the electronics industry, in addition to being the main raw material for Multilayer Ceramic Capacitors (MLCC), palladium is commonly used as a material in connectors and targets. The photonics industry has a yearly consumption demand of approximately 33 tons of palladium.

Automated Palladium Recycling Solution Offers Both Efficiency and Environmental Protection

The scarcity and usefulness of palladium naturally brings about its unusually high value. In addition, because of this, palladium recycling has become a focus of attention for industries. However, palladium recycling is not particularly easy. One one hand, it is often mixed together with other precious metals; therefore, it is necessary to separate layers in order to obtain the most benefits. On the other hand, it is necessary to take environmental considerations into account and utilize refining procedures which neither endanger human health nor the environment.

In consideration of these two requirement, Taiwanese environmentally-friendly gold stripping solutions provider Uwin-Nanotech provides a palladium recycling solution which simultaneously achieves high-efficiency while also being environmentally friendly.

Figure 2
Figure 2

Uwin Nanotech’s solution employs an automated soaking-style recycling procedure, which can be used to carry out the processing of waste materials that contain palladium through the use of industrial batches. By soaking materials in Uwin Nanotech’s patented palladium metals stripping solution, palladium can be quickly stripped away in the solution, and then a restorative medium can be added to the palladium solution in order to enable the palladium metal and the medium to become solid and precipitate. Finally the solids are filtered out, and sintering refinement is carried out in order to obtain high-purity palladium metal.

During this process, in order to achieve the most accurate sintering results, Uwin-Nanotech makes use of a high frequency furnace to carry out refining. This allows for a more uniform heating temperature in order to avoid the problem of decreased recycling benefits due to surface and core temperatures dropping too much.

Kenny Hsu, Managing Director of UWin Nanotech pointed out that their automated palladium recycling solution is capable of handling a wide variety of palladium metals recycling, including waste connectors and automotive catalytic converters. As long as materials undergo the soaking, filtering, and sintering steps, palladium metals can be recycled with high efficiency. Furthermore, in addition to palladium, Uwin Nanotech can also separate out other metals such as gold, platinum, and rhodium to be recycled individually.

More importantly, this solution is also completely non-toxic and does not utilize aqueous water or any ingredients containing cyanide. Consequently, it is not only harmless to people’s health be also will not harm the ecological environment. It is a solution which takes into account both commercial interests and environmental protection.

Figure 3
Figure 3

Automotive Catalyst Converters are a Key Market for Palladium Recycling

In terms of the recycling of automotive catalyst converters, which attract the most attention, Uwin Nanotech has the capacity to implement recycling aimed at the catalyst converters used in a wide variety of automobiles while also providing recycling data. Based upon Uwin Nanotech’s implementation, the gold, palladium, platinum, and rhodium contained inside automotive catalyst converters have extremely high value.

Figure 4 :  
Figure 4 :  

Taking the (Nissan) Santra 180 as an example, the catalyst converter in each automobile contains 0.0013g of gold, 2.412g of palladium, 0.0228g of platinum, and 0.0270g of rhodium. The recycling value of each catalyst converter is approximately NT$3,534, and the value of each ton is over NT$2 million. Palladium metal is utilized in the catalyst converters of some types of cars, such as the (Toyota) Tercel, in which platinum is utilized as a catalytic catalyst. However, in addition to palladium, they also similarly contain gold and rhodium, and on average the recycling of each catalyst converter yields approximately NT$881 with each ton having a value of over NT$1.2 million.

Hence, from the standpoint of value it becomes apparent that there are massive hidden business opportunities in palladium recycling, and recycling entrepreneurs and manufacturers should take note of this key market. This is especially the case in lieu of the continual high-grade value of palladium right before our eyes. Furthermore, the incidence of labor strikes in the palladium mining territory of South Africa have caused a tightening of capacity, further exacerbating the volatility of palladium prices this year.

Palladium recycling is a stable response to this state of affairs, and it can simultaneously alleviate stress on the natural environment. Therefore, it is the best, most economical, and most environmentally friendly solution to the current high price of palladium.

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