Elements

Robust Rhodium

Ring

The Element Rhodium

Rhodium is an extremely rare element. It’s silvery-white, corrosion resistant, and a chemically inert transition metal. Rhodium’s atomic symbol is derived from the Greek word “rhodon”, which translates to ‘rose coloured’.

Interesting Facts About Rhodium

  1. The first-ever encountered compound of rhodium was a beautiful deep red colour
  2. Rhodium is the rarest of all non-radioactive metals
  3. Rhodium is insoluble in most acids
  4. South-Africa, Russia and Zimbabwe are amongst the top-producers of rhodium
  5. Rhodium has no-known biological role

Unique Properties of Rhodium

Rhodium is an extremely rare element, with a high-melting point, and low resistance. It’s properties make it ideal for use in manufacturing laboratory crucibles and catalyst-gauzes. Rhodium’s silvery-white appearance and highly-reflective of light makes it optimal for plating jewelry and coating mirrors too.

Rhodium’s Applications in Today’s World

Rhodium in Alloys

Rhodium produces hardened material when alloyed with other metals such as iridium and platinum. This type of material is ideal for coating laboratory crucibles, optic mirrors, and furnace windings, and x-ray filters (for breast cancer diagnosis).

Rhodium in Catalytic Converters

Rhodium is primarily used in the production of an automobile device called a catalytic converter. A catalytic converter in an automobile is used to reduce the toxicity of the gases which the vehicle releases. Such a converter – which is made of platinum, rhodium, and other substances – uses reduction and oxidization processes to make pollutant gases less noxious.

To better understand this concept, visualize this situation:

A vehicle is about to release a nitrogen oxide molecule. When it passes the catalytic converter it will undergo a redox-reaction. In this reaction, rhodium (and platinum) will retain the nitrogen molecule while releasing the oxygen molecule. As a final result, the toxicity of the pollutant (nitrogen oxide), has been reduced. 

The diagram above is a representation of a potential reaction happening within a catalytic converter and the final result

Rhodium As A Catalyst

Rhodium is used as a catalyst in several industries. The BP-Monsanto process (which is a method of creating acetic acid), is an excellent example of rhodium’s catalyzing capabilities. Rhodium can also be alloyed with platinum to produce a gauze-catalyst which is used for the manufacturing of nitric acid.

History of Rhodium

In 1803, William Wallostan and Smithson Tennant were attempting to produce pure platinum for commercial purposes. The first step in producing this pure platinum was to dissolve ordinary platinum into an acid mixture called aqua regia. This mixture was to dissolve the ordinary platinum and then retain the pure metal in the form of a precipitate, but when Wollaston tried using the aqua regia, he noticed that he couldn’t dissolve all of the ordinary platinum in it – and much of it remained as a black residue. From this residue, Tennant was able to isolate a few platinum group-metals (PGM) such as iridium, osmium, and palladium. From there, remained a solution called sodium rhodium chloride (Na3RhCl₆), and it contained bright red-crystals. It was through this deep-red solution of sodium rhodium chloride, that Wollaston was able to obtain a sample of rhodium from.

Rhodium – Compounds, Reactions, Synthesis, and Oxidization States

Synthesis of Rhodium

Rhodium is found in nature in the elemental state in tiny quantities, usually with platinum. The extraction process is complicated, you can read about it here and here.

Rhodium Compounds

A few examples of rhodium compounds include sodium rhodium chloride (Na3RhCl₆), dirhodium tetraacetate Rh2(O2CCH3)4 , and rhodium trichloride RhCl3.

Reactions

Metallic rhodium will react with fluorine gas to produce rhodium (VI) fluoride. Rhodium is inert to most acids and does not react with water (under normal conditions).

Rhodium Oxidization States

Rhodium’s common oxidization state is +3. Other oxidization states include: +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6.

Rhodium Properties

  • Melting Point: 1963°C, 3565°F, 2236 K 
  • Boiling Point: 3695°C, 6683°F, 3968 K 
  • Density: 12.4 (g cm−3)
  • Relative Atomic Mass: 102.906  
  • Atomic Number: 45
  • Electronegativity: 2.28 (Pauling Scale) 
  • Classification: Platinum Group Metal (PGM) 
  • Crustal Abundance: 0.000037 ppm 
  • Electron Shell Configuration: [Kr] 4d85s1
  • Key Isotopes: 103Rh 

Where Can I Buy Rhodium?

Jewellery stores usually sell rhodium. But it’s quite expensive to purchase in bulk quantities.

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