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10 Interesting Facts About Platinum
The vast majority of the world’s platinum production comes from South Africa and Russia.
Platinum is silvery-white – once known as “white gold” – and has a number of useful properties, which explains its application in a wide range of industries.
It is extremely resistant to tarnishing and corrosion (making it known as a “noble metal”) and is very soft and malleable, making it easy to shape.
It is also ductile, making it easy to draw into wire, and is non-reactive, meaning it does not oxidize or be affected by common acids.
Platinum is one of the transition metals, a group that includes gold, silver, copper and titanium – and most of the elements in the middle of the periodic table.
The atomic structure of these metals means they can bond easily with other elements. Platinum is best known for its use in jewelry, but its main applications extend to catalytic converters, electrical contacts, pacemakers, drugs, and magnets.
Here are 10 interesting facts you may not know about platinum.
1. About 50 percent of cancer treatment patients currently use platinum-containing drugs, and some of these drugs, such as cisplatin, are also used to treat tumors and cancer in animals. Platinum is considered a biocompatible metal because it is non-toxic and stable, so it does not react or adversely affect body tissues. Recent research has also shown that platinum inhibits the growth of certain cancer cells.
2. According to many analysts, platinum production is not likely to increase in the coming years. The majority (about 80 percent) of platinum is mined in South Africa. About 10 percent is mined in Russia and the rest is in North and South America. Because platinum and other Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) are not usually found in large quantities, they are often byproducts of the mining of other metals. South African producers have already recovered near-surface platinum. Today, producers must dig deep into the earth’s crust for the metal. Deeper mining translates into higher production costs and less overall production of the commodity.
3. Almost half of the platinum mined is used in catalytic converters, the part of the car that reduces toxic gases into less toxic emissions. Platinum and other platinum metals can withstand the high temperatures required for oxidation reactions that reduce emissions.
4. A cylindrical piece of platinum and platinum alloy is used as the international standard for measuring one kilogram. In the 1880s, about 40 of these cylinders, weighing about 2.2 lbs. or 1 kg, were distributed all over the world.
5. Platinum group metals or PGMs are some of the rarest metals found on earth. There are two subgroups of PGMs: Palladium Group-Platinum Group Elements (PPGEs) and Iridium Group-Platinum Group Elements (IPGEs). The first group consists of platinum, palladium and rhodium. The second consists of iridium, osmium and ruthenium. They do not tarnish PGMs and are highly resistant to heat and chemical attack. They are all excellent conductors of electricity.
6. Objects dated around 700 BC. they contained platinum. Other PGMs did not enter the scene until the nineteenth century. Malleable platinum, obtained only after purification to essentially pure metal, was first produced by the French physicist PF Chabaneau in 1789. It was made into a chalice presented to Pope Pius VI. The discovery of palladium was claimed in 1802 by the English chemist William Wollaston, who named it after the asteroid Pallas. Wollaston then claimed the discovery of another element present in platinum ore: rhodium. The discoveries of iridium (named after Iris, goddess of the rainbow, because of the variegated color of its salts) and osmium (from the Greek word for “odor,” because of the chlorine-like odor of the volatile oxide of) were claimed by the English chemist Smithson Tennant in 1803.
7. London is the center for platinum trading, but physical delivery tends to take place in Zurich, Switzerland. The CME’s NYMEX division offers platinum futures. Each futures contract represents 50 ounces of the metal. The price of platinum tends to rise and fall with global industrial conditions. The price of platinum peaked in 2008 at $2,300 per ounce just before the 2008 global financial crisis.
8. Unlike gold and silver, which could easily be isolated in a relatively pure state by simple fire refining, the platinum metals require complex aqueous chemical treatment for their isolation and identification. Because these techniques were not available until the early 19th century, the identification and isolation of the platinum group lagged thousands of years behind silver and gold. Additionally, the high melting points of these metals limited their applications until researchers devised methods to consolidate and process platinum into useful forms.
9. The transformation of platinum into fine jewelry began around 1900, but while this application remains important today, it was soon eclipsed by industrial uses. After World War II, the expansion of molecular conversion techniques in oil refining created a great demand for the catalytic properties of platinum metals. This demand increased further in the 1970s, when automobile emission standards in the United States and other European countries led to the use of platinum metals in the catalytic conversion of exhaust gases.
10. Platinum mining is capital and labor intensive. It can take up to 6 months and 7 to 12 tons of ore to produce one troy ounce (31.135 g) of pure platinum. The first step in this process is crushing the platinum-bearing ore and immersing it in a reagent containing water – a process known as ‘flotation’. During flotation, air is drawn through the ore-water slurry. Platinum particles chemically attach to oxygen and rise to the surface in a foam that is removed for further refinement. After drying, the concentrated powder still contains less than 1% platinum. It is then heated to over 2732 F° (1500 C°) in electric furnaces and the air is again passed through, removing iron and sulfur impurities. Electrolytic and chemical techniques are used to extract nickel, copper and cobalt, resulting in a concentrate of 15-20% PGM. Aqua regia (a mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid) is used to dissolve platinum metal from the mineral concentrate creating chlorine which attaches to the platinum to form chloroplatinic acid. In the final step, ammonium chloride is used to convert chloroplatinic acid to hexagonal ammonium chloroplatinate, which can be burned to form pure platinum metal.
The good news is that not all platinum is produced from primary sources in this long and expensive process. According to United States Geological Survey (USGS) statistics, about 30% of the 8.53 million ounces of platinum produced worldwide each year comes from recycled sources. Platinum recycling helps promote and protect the future use of a valuable natural resource.
Platinum can be polished from the most diverse sources:
-rods and ingots
-flakes and cereals
– sponges and dust
-wire and gauzes-crucibles
-lab and thermocouple wire
-Aqua regia solutions.
Platinum refining terms are customized based on the type and quantity of platinum scrap you have and the service you require.
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