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Why are catalytic converters valuable and what metals do they contain?

Handling and processing catalytic converters

Why are catalytic converters valuable and what metals do they contain?

MAY 2022 

Truth be told, the answer is in fact, in the question itself. Catalytic converters are valuable because they contain three precious earth metals: Platinum, Palladium, and Rhodium. All three belong to Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) and contain similar chemical properties and physical attributes.

There are six elements that comprise Platinum Group Metals and all six elements are most valued for their wide range of applications within automotive, medical, electronic, and industrial fields. So why are converters loaded with metals within the group?

Emission pollutants from gasoline vehicles are damaging to air, soil, and water. The catalytic converter’s function is to create a chemical reaction that changes these emissions into less harmful gasses and reduce pollution. Platinum, palladium, and rhodium are the precious metals used within a converter acting as the catalyst to transform emissions such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides into less harmful off gasses.

Platinum and Palladium are traded as a commodities in global stock markets, there are multiple purchasers of these metals, therefore, prices fluctuate according to supply, demand, and are speculated on. In addition to catalytic converter manufacturing, platinum and palladium have a wide range of end uses within medical tools and applications, electrical manufacturing as well as jewelry fabrication to name a few. In other words, end buyers of these two metals emerge from a multitude of industries.

Rhodium is much more focused with its application in the automotive and industrial market. 80% of all Rhodium is used in automotive sector while the remainder is used in industrial applications for reducing harmful fossil fuel emissions.  Rhodium is one of the rarer of the rare earth metals and as such is not bought and sold on open world market exchanges. Buyers and sellers of Rhodium are directly acting with each other, meaning transactions between end users of the metals and those responsible for production are where prices are determined. These prices are often reported in ranges, actual sale prices are subject to the sellers price offer.

As a catalytic converter contains all three metals, the value of any one unit can fluctuate every minute according to the metal market and the supply, demand and speculation that influences platinum, palladium, and rhodium prices.

There you have it! The value of the catalytic converter is deep within the core.

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