Palladium is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Pd. The unique properties of palladium and other platinum group metals (PGMs) account for their widespread use. A quarter of all goods manufactured today either contain PGMs or have a significant part in their manufacturing process played by PGMs. Over half of the supply of palladium and its congener platinum goes into catalytic converters, which convert up to 90% of harmful gases from auto exhaust (hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide) into less-harmful substances (nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor). Palladium is also used in electronics, dentistry, medicine, hydrogen purification, chemical applications, and groundwater treatment. Palladium plays a key role in the technology used for fuel cells, which combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat, and water.
The largest use of palladium today is in catalytic converters. Palladium is also used in jewelry, in dentistry, watch making, in blood sugar test strips, in aircraft spark plugs and in the production of surgical instruments and electrical contacts. Palladium is also used to make professional transverse flutes. As a commodity, palladium bullion has ISO currency codes of XPD and 964. Palladium is one of only four metals to have such codes, the others being gold, silver and platinum.
Like other precious metals, palladium may be used as an investment. Palladium price peaked near US$1,100 per troy ounce in January 2001 (approximately US$1340 in 2009 dollars) driven mainly on speculation of the catalytic converter demand from the automobile industry. Palladium is traded in the spot market with the code "XPD". When settled in USD, the code is "XPDUSD". A traditional way of investing in palladium is buying bullion coins and bars made of palladium. Available palladium coins include the Canadian Maple Leaf and the Chinese Panda. The liquidity of direct palladium bullion investment is not as good as gold and silver due to low circulation of palladium coins and wider spread between buying and selling price.