What Is Rhodium Used For?

Rhodium is one of the six platinum group metals (PGMs), which are rare, valuable precious metals. Like other PGMs, rhodium has high heat resistance and a high melting point (3567° F), it’s chemically inert, it’s very resistant to oxidation and corrosion, and it has exceptional catalytic properties. These and other characteristics make this reflective, silver-white noble metal particularly good for certain applications… So, what is rhodium used for? Let’s take a closer look.

Where Does Rhodium Come From?

Rhodium is one of the rarest precious metals, and it’s the rarest of the six PGMs (which also include platinum, palladium, osmium, iridium, and ruthenium). Extracting it is a complicated and expensive procedure. The ores are generally mixed with other precious metals, including platinum, gold, silver, and palladium, and there are very few rhodium-bearing minerals. It’s obtained as a byproduct of platinum, nickel, and copper mining. Most rhodium—over 80% of the global supply—is found in South Africa, but it’s also mined to a much lesser extent in Russia, Canada, and Zimbabwe, and in even smaller amounts elsewhere.

Uses for Rhodium

Rhodium is primarily used for making catalytic converters for gasoline-powered vehicles. In fact, this application accounts for a little more than three-quarters of worldwide demand for rhodium. Basically, catalytic converters change the toxic gases in exhaust (especially nitrogen oxides) into gases that are less damaging to the environment and to our health, creating less harmful emissions.

Another 5-7% of rhodium goes to making catalysts for the chemical manufacturing sector.  For example, catalysts containing rhodium help make raw materials used in the production of fertilizers and explosives.

Glass production accounts for about another 3-6% of rhodium use. This precious metal has perfect characteristics for creating the vessels that contain and shape molten glass. It’s also used to produce glass fiber, and liquid crystal displays (LCDs).

Rhodium’s high shine and resistance to scratching and tarnishing also make it useful as a plating for jewelry. In addition, rhodium is sometimes used to make a finish for mirrors, optical instruments, electrical components, high-heat manufacturing and lab equipment, electrodes for aircraft spark plugs, thermocouples, sputtering targets, and more.

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