10 Interesting Characteristics and Uses of Rhodium

Among the basic chemical, rhodium is one of them. Rhodium is among the basic chemicals in list of periodic table. The first discovery of rhodium was in 1803 discovered by William Hyde Wollaston. This compound is among rare metal platinum and received much attention during its first discovery. In the CAS registry, the chemical is registered with number 7440-16-6. In periodic table, the chemical is in group 9 with period 5 and block d. To know more about rhodium properties and uses, here is the description of each of them.

Characteristics of Rhodium

Here’s the characteristics and uses of rhodium:

  • Belongs to noble metal of platinum group

Rhodium belongs to platinum group and is a noble metal. Noble metal means it does not react to oxygen or goes to corrosion easily. Pretty solid in shape, rhodium is also the rarest compound among all platinum groups include platinum, palladium, osmium, ruthenium, iridium, and rhodium. The state of the shape is generally solid under temperature of 20 degree celcius and unchanged for most of the time when reacted to oxygen. This makes rhodium a noble metal with high value.

  • Has rose-colored color

The name of the rhodium derivated from Greek term of rhodon. When translated into English, rhodon means rose colored. The color of the rodium indeed resembles the color of red rose. Often times we can see rhodium in a rose visualization. Cause of why rhodium has this color is most likely because of the platinum material it has. Not to mention it does not react too much with oxygen thud it brings the original color from the earth crust. Nonetheless, rhodium has one of the most beautiful natural color from natural compound.

  • A non-radioactive metal

Unlike other metals that usually can turn into radioactive one, rhodium is non-radioactive metal. Its resistant nature makes it always stay pure during the discovery. Uncombined with other compound, it is very rare to find rhodium as it usually deep inside the earth crust. People can find rhodium in the sand of deep river or in ores. When people are not intentionally dig deep the earth it is very seldom for them to be able to discover rhodium. Thus, it makes rhodium one of the rarest chemicals ever existed in the earth.

  • Suspected Carcinogen

A lot of chemists debated the possibility of rhodium to be carcinogenic to human. Rhodium may not be radioactive, but the resistant nature of rhodium makes I hard to react or mix with other elements. This makes the chemical becomes a strange substance that the organs of humans will not accept. There is also research on small mammals and there is indeed a tendency of carcinogen in the elements of rhodium. Therefore, some countries ban rhodium for daily use and limit it only for research purpose. However, since it still unknown whether rhodium is valid carcinogen, some countries still allow the use of rhodium with restricted limit to avoid any hazard or possible disease coming from utilizing rhodium.

  • Byproduct of nickel and copper

Rhodium often times discovered by miners who work in nickel and copper mining. Due to it being the second rate mining product, the circulation of rhodium itself is very rare. Eighty percent of rhodium production comes from South Africa where the mining does not concentrate on getting rhodium but nickel and copper instead since the two are more accepted economically. Nevertheless, the price of rhodium is not cheap either, if not the most expensive metal ever existed. The price of rhodium highly depends on the mining who mine other metal whether they also found rhodium or not.

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Uses of Rhodium

After knowing the characteristics and properties of rhodium, it is time to know whether the chemical is also usable for daily or industrial use for the very least. Generally rhodium has small market that means there is very few use of rhodium in industry, however, there are some uses of rhodium.

  • Catalyst Converter in Car

The main use of rhodium in industry is as catalytic converter in the production of car. Almost eighty percent of rhodium use is in this automotive industry. The role of rhodium in car production is to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides in the exhaust of cars. Rhodium itself is resistant to oxidation and it makes perfect role in perfecting the design of exhaust to be safer and economical.

  • Catalyst of Chemical Production

Another use of rhodium is as catalyst in the production of chemicals. Some chemicals are result of artificial production instead of purely natural ones. In order to create the right chemical and balance the compound, chemist needs rhodium as the catalyst. Chemicals that use rhodium as catalyst for example are acetic acid, nitric acid, and other hydrogenation reaction. 

  • Optic Coating

Rhodium in industry also works as material to coat optic mirror and optic fibre. This compound is good conductor with generally low electrical resistance. Moreover, the chemical is also very solid and can stand corrosion from water or air pollution. Therefore, rhodium makes the best material to coat the optic fibre in cable or in optic mirror. The latter use we can see in the headlight reflector of the car.

Also see Uses of Barium in Daily Life.

  • Storing Sun Energy

This use is still under research but there is high probability that rhodium is able to store energy from the sun. While the use of rhodium mainly is not that significant, if this theory is true, then rhodium is important in the development of fuel and energy management. It may help to convert water and carbon dioxide into high power of fuel. If this is the case, another source of fuel is highly possible.

Rhodium being the element with atomic number 56 is among the rare and precious metal with small production. Further research about its use may expand the mining of this metal later. However, certain procedure and preventive steps are still necessary especially if the rhodium is indeed carcinogenic. That is all about characteristics and uses of rhodium.

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