Rhodium is a rare and valuable metal that is used in catalytic converters to reduce harmful emissions from vehicles. One of the most frequently asked questions about this precious metal is “How much rhodium is in a catalytic converter?”
The answer depends on the size, age, and type of vehicle. Due to its limited supply and increased demand, rhodium has become one of the most expensive metals in the world. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the high cost of rhodium and explain how it is used in catalytic converters. We will also discuss the most efficient ways to recover rhodium from catalytic converters.
How Much Rhodium Is in a Catalytic Converter?
1. Size of Vehicle
Smaller vehicles such as small cars, and SUVs usually require 2-6 grams of rhodium, while larger vehicles like trucks, trailers, and pickups require 6-30 grams.
The reason for this significant difference lies in the amount of harmful emissions produced by the engine. Smaller engines produce fewer emissions, which means less rhodium is needed to neutralize them.
2. Age of Vehicle
Older catalytic converters contain more rhodium, and for a simple reason: rhodium was cheaper back then. With the passage of time, rhodium supplies got limited, and the metal became more expensive. Thus, manufacturers started using less rhodium in their catalytic converters, focusing on other metals that were more readily available and cheaper.
3. Type of Vehicle
Low emission cars, such as the Toyota Prius and Ford F250, contain more rhodium in their OEM catalytic converters than other vehicles.
Luxury cars, like the Ferrari F430 and BMW 760 Li, have even more rhodium, valued at about $1300 in their OEM catalytic converters. While this may seem like a small detail, more rhodium in a catalytic converter means a more efficient and expensive converter.
Related: How Long Do Prius Last?
How Much Is the Rhodium in a Catalytic Converter Worth?
At the time of writing, one gram of rhodium was valued at $397.06, and an ounce was worth $12,350.00.
This means that even just a standard catalytic converter with 1-2 grams of rhodium would be worth between $397.06 and $794.12.
So, it’s no surprise that these converters are a prime target for thieves. A stolen catalytic converter can be sold for a handsome sum, and scrap converters can fetch between $75 and $700, depending on their condition and the quality of the metals inside.
It’s best to sell a used converter immediately to get its maximum value. While rhodium lasts longer than other metals in a converter, platinum and palladium can lose their properties and corrode faster, which can significantly affect the converter’s value.
What Makes Rhodium So Expensive?
Here are the factors that contribute to the high cost of rhodium in catalytic converters:
1. Limited Supply
Firstly, the supply of rhodium is extremely limited. In fact, it is found in only 0.0002% of Earth’s crust, making it rarer than gold or silver. Moreover, it only occurs naturally with other rare platinum metals or as a by-product of metal ores. Additionally, there are only a few mining sites that produce rhodium, with South Africa being the largest producer. Unfortunately, many South African mines shut down during the pandemic, causing a further reduction in global rhodium supply and driving up prices.
2. Increased Demand
Second, the demand for rhodium has increased significantly over the past two decades. Its primary use is in catalytic converters, which are now fitted to most cars and trucks (80%). It is also used in jewelry, electronics, electrical contacts, medical instruments, and other industrial products. This increase in demand drives up prices even further as more people compete for a limited supply of rhodium.
3. Unique Physical and Chemical Properties
As a transition metal and a member of the Platinum Group Metals, rhodium possesses some remarkable characteristics that set it apart from other elements.
For instance, it has an exceptionally high melting point of 1963°C (3565°F), which enables it to withstand extremely high temperatures and makes it ideal for use in applications such as exhaust systems.
Additionally, it is chemically stable and can withstand exposure to corrosive environments and high heat, which makes it an ideal material for use in concentrated acids and other industrial processes. Moreover, rhodium exhibits catalytic properties, making it a popular choice for use as an oxidation catalyst in catalytic converters, helping reduce vehicle emissions.
Why Is Rhodium Used in Catalytic Converters?
Rhodium’s high resistance to heat and corrosive elements found in automobile exhaust systems makes it an ideal candidate for use in catalytic converters. Alongside other precious metals like platinum and palladium, rhodium acts as a catalyst to convert harmful gases into benign substances, effectively reducing the overall carbon footprint of vehicles.
The process helps to significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, such as nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbon chains, that have been linked to environmental degradation.
Which catalytic converters have the most rhodium?
The vehicles that have the highest concentration of rhodium in their catalytic converters are luxury cars like the Ferrari F430 and BMW 760 Li. They contain up to 30 grams of rhodium, which is valued at around $1300.
Can You Recycle Rhodium?
The answer is yes! Rhodium can be recycled, but it’s important to leave it to the professionals. The process of extracting rhodium from old converters involves corrosive substances which can be hazardous.
Recycling old catalytic converters can also be profitable for those who no longer have use for them. By bringing them to a local demolishing store, they can separate the platinum, palladium and any impurities to obtain scrap rhodium. The scrap metal can then be repurposed and used to create new catalytic converters.
How to Recover Rhodium from Catalytic Converters
Step 1: Safety first
Before diving into the task, gather your safety essentials: heavy-duty gloves, protective eyewear, and any other necessary gear.
Step 2: Remove the converter
Go under your vehicle and unscrew the bolts holding the catalytic converter in place. Alternatively, utilize a flame cutter to separate it from its housing.
Step 3: Cut and conquer
Carefully cut open the honeycomb-like structure that houses the valuable metals. Take caution to prevent any mishaps. Then, remove the platinum using either box cutters or your hands.
Step 4: Crush it to perfection
Turn the platinum into a fine powder by skillfully crushing it with a rod mill. Aim for a -70 mesh consistency. Ready for the next step? Let’s proceed!
Step 5: Enter the aqua regia
Prepare an aqua regia mixture consisting of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid. Thoroughly combine the solution and charge it into a reactor. Heat the system to the desired temperature.
Step 6: The magic begins
When the system stabilizes, introduce the metal powder to the reactor. Stir the mixture vigorously at 700 rpm and atmospheric pressure. At regular intervals, extract the leachate using a pipet and filter it to obtain pure rhodium.
Please note: This process requires expertise and should only be performed by professionals!
FAQs about Rhodium and Catalytic Converters
How much is a gram of rhodium?
Currently it is priced at $131.82 per gram.
What other metals can be found in catalytic converters?
Other than rhodium, catalytic converters usually contain precious metals such as platinum and palladium.
What cars have the most rhodium?
- Toyota Prius
- Ferrari F430
- Ford F-250
- BMW 760 Li
Does a catalytic converter contain gold?
No, catalytic converters do not contain gold but may contain other precious metals like platinum and palladium in addition to rhodium.
Can you extract rhodium from catalytic converters?
Yes, extractable amounts of rhodium can be obtained from scrap catalytic converters using a specialized process such as aqua regia leaching.
What is the melting point of rhodium?
Rhodium has a very high melting point of 1963°C (3565°F).
How long does a catalytic converter last?
Under normal driving conditions, a catalytic converter typically lasts about 10 years or 50,000 miles.
The high cost of rhodium is due to its limited supply and increasing demand. Rhodium’s unique physical and chemical properties make it the perfect material for use in catalytic converters, helping reduce harmful emissions from vehicles. This makes rhodium a valuable metal that must be recovered efficiently in order to maximise its potential.
With proper care, catalytic converters can last for around 10 years, meaning they still have plenty of life left in them even after being removed from a vehicle. So if you are looking for ways to recover the precious metals inside them, then you should consider recycling your old converter for maximum returns. Thank you for reading! We hope this article was helpful in answering the question how much rhodium is in a catalytic converter.
I’m Timothy Ballard, owner of a used car dealership in Springfield. I love just about everything automotive, but I have a special place in my heart for trucks. I’m an ASE Certified Master Technician, so I know my way around a car. In my spare time, I enjoy traveling with my family and hiking new trails.