Cadmium is a natural metal, like silver or platinum, found in nature, usually in zinc ores. It is a chemical element with the symbol Cd and atomic number 48 and is chemically similar to the two other stable metals in Group 12 of the periodic table, zinc and mercury. It's soft, silvery-white in color with a bluish tint that diminishes when exposed to air or moisture.
"This rare metal is also ductile and malleable, which means that you can easily shape it. It is resistant to corrosion and has a lower melting point than most other transition metals," says Samir Jaber, a technical content writer and editor at Matmatch GmbH, a materials science-based platform for material and supplier sourcing based in Munich, Germany.
Because cadmium has a low melting point of 609 degrees Fahrenheit (321 degrees Celsius) and is corrosion resistant, it's a popular choice for coating steel for industrial purposes. (Rhodium, by contrast, has a high melting point, at 3,595 degrees F, or 2,035 degrees C). It's also an efficient energy conductor. However, there are different types of cadmium and so its characteristics may differ depending on the supplier and material grades, notes Jaber. It's used to stabilize paint pigments ranging from yellow to maroon, steel coating, batteries, solar power and barrier material in nuclear fission reactors. "However, cadmium is quite toxic to humans upon exposure and does not have a taste or odor," Jaber says.