Alongside gold and silver, platinum is considered as a precious metal. This is because this chemical element has distinctive chemical and physical properties compared to others. Platinum is a transition metal with silver-white or grey-dominant color. It has Pt as its symbol and atomic number 78. Platinum is malleable, ductile and thick at 21.45 grams per cubic centimeter. It is also one of the least reactive metals. This chemical element is resistant to corrosion and high temperature.
Platinum is not abundant in Earth’s crust so that makes it as a rare metal. Its rarity therefore makes platinum to fall into the category of precious or expensive metal. Platinum metals can be obtained through nickel and copper mining and extraction. This element is usually found at the bottom of nickel or copper cell. Most of platinum deposits are located in Russia, North America and Southern Africa. South American people are believed to be first civilization that used platinum as a material for their artefacts.
Italian physician Julius Caesar Scaliger in 1557 shared a story about metal deposits across Panama and Mexico. He describe a metal that even fire could not liquefy. But Antonio de Ulloa, a Spanish explorer and scientist, is credited as the first person who discovered the precious metal when he traveled around South America and took home some of platinum nuggets.
Platinum is more ductile than other noble metals and it does not corrode easily. It can also remain its form at high temperatures as it has boiling point of 3825 °C and melting point of 1768.3 °C. However, platinum dissolves easily in aqua regia or a mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid.
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The applications of platinum is very wide due to its advantageous as a transition metal. Platinum is known for its prestige as jewelry and as a status symbol. The chemical industry has been using platinum as catalyst for various purposes. Moreover, this noble metal can be found in medical equipment, electronic devices and many more. Here are the uses of Platinum in everyday life in different industries:
Platinum as a symbol of prestige
Platinum becomes the most demanded precious metal in the market because it is extremely rare. Its popularity skyrockets as marketing goes. Some believe that people have started to choose platinum-based engagement and wedding rings over gold. The reason why platinum is more expensive than gold is that because this metal is heavier than gold. Its weight is almost twice heavier than gold and it is more rugged, ductile and resistant to corrosion.
The reason why platinum is called a noble metal is because it does not react with oxygen to form oxides easily. More than 1,500 tons of gold are mined annually while platinum production is usually less than 200 tons per annum. This is what makes platinum more special than gold. (Also read: Most Dangerous Chemicals in The World)
The mining industry has reported that platinum deposit on the Earth’s crust is not as large as gold. It is a lot harder to mine platinum than gold. It can take up to seven months to mine and process platinum. The cost to process an ounce of platinum is in thousands of dollars while gold processing only costs around nine hundred dollars.
The association between platinum and prestigiousness becomes more apparent when fashion companies and even banks use platinum to describe their superior program. Platinum debit cards or credit cards, for example, have greater benefits than gold membership. The Queen Mother’s Crown, which was made in 1937, is the only crown for a British Royal leader that contains platinum.
Platinum as a catalyst
Despite being known for its prestige, scientists use platinum as a catalyst. Platinum is proven to be a suitable catalyst for oxidation and reduction reactions in acidic and basic electrolytes. Platinum is also used in the production of nitric acid, silicone and benzene. Platinum is able to make the oxidation of hydrogen gas to protons faster. This is because platinum can bind hydrogen gas effectively compared to other metals.
Platinum black or platinum powder is as a catalyst in vehicles. This element will convert unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust system into carbon dioxide and water vapor completely. Because of its remarkable ability, platinum black is also known as a catalytic converter. This type of converter can turn pollutants produced by combustion in automobiles into less toxic materials. Catalytic converters are used in bus, motorcycles, electrical generators and other types of vehicles. French engineer Eugene Houdry was the first person who invented this converter.
Platinum can decompose hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. It is also used as a catalyst in fuel cell to reduce oxygen in the cells. In short, platinum is a good oxidation catalyst and has a strong resistance to toxic gases and leads.
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Platinum as investment
As we all know, platinum is rare and expensive. Its exclusivity becomes the main attraction for people to buy platinum-based products. Platinum can be traded in many forms, especially as jewelry. Luxury goods with platinum have become more common as a marketing tool. We can lavish brands with expensive price tags in stores lately. Rolex has been using platinum in their limited edition products for years.
The brand claims that it is a lot harder to polish platinum than other materials. Other high-end watch brands such as Patek Philippe and Breitling also list a couple of platinum-based watches on their catalogs. In order to be called as platinum-based goods, a product must contain at least 90% of platinum or else it is called as platinum alloy.
But even though goods that contain platinum can worth thousands of dollars and even more costly than gold, the price of platinum itself is not steady. Forbes in 2011 reported that the price of platinum was below the gold price. This trend had also happened in late 2008 following the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers even though the price was twice the price of gold in the first quarter. The decrease in price of noble metals is bound to happen during a recession era.
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Platinum in industrial and medical applications
Platinum as catalysts is well-known in industrial applications. Fertilizer manufacturing companies use platinum catalysts in their products as a nutrient. This chemical element serves as an important ingredient in the making of silicone. Platinum cure silicone is recommended because it has impressive tear strength and flexibility. It does not shrink easily and can stand hot temperatures.
Several medical devices also use platinum as a component because of its durability, malleability and conductivity. Platinum is usually flattened or formed into wires or smaller parts before it is ready to be added to a machine. However, there are many uses of Platinum in everyday life.
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Products That Contain Platinum
Because platinum has a lot of beneficial properties a lot of companies use this material for their products. Here is a list of uses of Platinum in everyday life and goods that contain platinum or its alloys:
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- Luxury goods
Branded items such as watches are known for their prestige. Platinum as a jewelry is common but there are other high-end things that use platinum to increase the price. For example, Rolex Day-Date 36 watch is worth more than $15,000 depending on the variant, color and other variables. Notable automobile manufacturing companies such as BMW decorates their cars with platinum-based items. Exhaustive system that contain platinum is more preferable because it can limit the production of toxic materials from combustion.
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- Medical devices
The people at Robert Bosch GmbH invented an oxygen sensor to detect the level of diatomic oxygen in gas or liquid. They use a thin layer of platinum in the sensor. Platinum’s low corrosivity becomes a highlight in the biomedicine industry since other metals such as nickel and copper are not suitable in implantation process. Nickel and copper can sometimes cause allergic reactions in a patient’s body. Some leading medical device companies also use platinum in defibrillators, heart pumps, catheter ablation and implants.
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- Products made of platinum cured silicone rubber
Silicone rubber are widely used in many industries because it is cheap, stable and resistant to extreme temperatures. Silicone rubber is unusable it its uncured state. To change its condition, platinum catalyst is used to cure this elastomer.
Products that use silicone rubber are vast, from sportswear to kitchen tools. Shoes companies usually use silicone rubber to make molds because it is durable. Silicone rubber gloves are common among people because of their elasticity. Electronic devices can also contain platinum cured silicone rubber in their parts such as LED lamps, computer parts and water heaters. Indeed, there are many uses of Platinum in everyday life.
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