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10 Interesting Facts About Platinum
Most of the world’s platinum production comes from South Africa and Russia.
Platinum is silver-white – it was 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 (which makes it known as “noble metal”) and is very soft and malleable, making it easy to shape.
It is also ductile, making it easy to stretch into wire, and non-reactive, which means that it does not oxidize and is not 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 commonly known to be used in the manufacture of jewelry, but its main applications spread 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 therapy 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 biologically compatible metal because it is non-toxic and stable, so it does not react, or negatively influence 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 found in North and South America. Because platinum and other Platinum Group Metals (PGM) are generally not found in large quantities, they are often derived from the mining of other metals. South African producers have already recovered platinum that is close to the surface of the earth. Today, producers have to dig deep into the earth’s crust for the metal. Deeper mining results in higher production costs and less total production of the commodity.
3. Almost half of the platinum that is mined is used in catalytic converters, the automotive part 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 is used as an international standard for measuring a kilogram. In the 1880s, about 40 of these cylinders, weighing about 2.2 lbs. or 1 kilogram, were distributed around the world.
5. Platinum Group Metals or PGMs are some of the rare metals found in the earth. There are two subgroups of PGMs: Palladium-Platinum Group Elements (PPGE) and Iridium-Platinum Group Elements (IPGE). The first group consists of platinum, palladium and rhodium. The second consists of iridium, osmium and ruthenium. No PGMs build up and they are highly resistant to heat and chemical attack. They are all excellent conductors of electricity.
6. Objects dating around 700 BC have platinum content. Other PGMs did not make their way onto the scene until the 19th century. Malleable platinum, obtainable only after purification to essentially pure metal, was first produced by the French physicist PF Chabaneau in 1789; it was made into a chalice that was 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 followed 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 chlorinelike smell of the so volatile oxide) were claimed by the English. the chemist Smithson Tennant in 1803.
7. London is the center of the platinum trade, but physical delivery tends to be in Zurich, Switzerland. The NYMEX division of the CME offers futures contracts on platinum. 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 be readily isolated in a comparatively pure state by simple fire refining, platinum metals require a complex aqueous chemical process for their isolation and identification. Because these techniques were not available until the turn of the 19th century, the identification and isolation of the platinum group was delayed from silver and gold by thousands of years. Also, the high melting points of these metals limited their applications until researchers devised methods to consolidate and work platinum into useful forms.
9. The fashion for platinum in fine jewelry began around 1900, but, while this application remains important even today, it was soon eclipsed by industrial uses. After World War II, the expansion of molecular conversion techniques in petroleum refining created a great demand for the catalytic properties of platinum metals. This demand grew even more 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 both 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 to crush the platinum containing ore and immerse it in a reagent containing water – a process known as “foam flotation”. During the flotation, the air is pumped through the ore-water slurry. Platinum particles chemically attach to oxygen and rise to the surface in a foam that is removed for further refining. Once dry, the concentrated powder still contains less than 1% platinum. It is then heated to over 2732F° (1500C°) in an electric furnace and air is blown again, 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 combination of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid) is used to dissolve the metal platinum 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 into ammonium hex chloroplatinate, which can be burned to form pure platinum.
The good news is that not all platinum is produced from primary sources in this long and expensive process. According to statistics from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), about 30% of the 8.53 million ounces of platinum produced worldwide each year come from recycled sources. Platinum recycling helps promote and protect the future use of a valuable natural resource.
Platinum can be obtained from various sources:
– bars and ingots
– flakes and wheat
– sponge and dust
– wire and gauze-crucibles
-Laboratory and thermocouple wire
– medical equipment
-aqua regia solutions.
Platinum refining terms are customized depending on the type and amount of platinum scrap you have and the service you need.
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