Platinum is a metallic element and its atomic number is 78. The symbol of this metallic element is Pt. This metal is in group 10 in the periodic table of various metals. It is placed in period 6 positioned between iridium and gold. Platinum is known to be a “transition metal”. Along with palladium, iridium, ruthenium, rhodium and osmium, it is among the “platinum metals”.
Platinum is a ductile and malleable metallic element, which has a greyish-white color. This metallic element derives its name from the Spanish word “platina” – meaning “little silver”. Together with gold and silver, it is among the so-called valuable metals.
This metallic element has six isotopes that occur naturally. Platinum is precious because it is among the rarest elements found on the crust of the Earth. Its abundance on the Earth’s crust is roughly 5 μg/kg. While pure platinum is found rarely, it is generally found together with copper and nickel ores. Mostly, platinum is found in South Africa, which has approximately 80 per cent of the metal’s production worldwide. Since platinum is one of the rarest metallic elements present in the Earth’s crust, just a few hundred tons of it are produced every year. Considering the important applications of platinum, this metallic element is extremely precious and an extremely valuable commodity.
Platinum was known to the pre-Columbian Native Americans who used this metal for a number of purposes, a French scholar Julius Caesar Scaliger was the first to make an oblique mention of platinum in European literature in 1557 saying that the metal was found somewhere between Darién and Mexico. Scaliger came from an Italian background. Later, in the 1730s, a Spaniard named Antonio de Ulloa documented this metal further. Ulloa was an astronomer who took part in a French expedition to Peru.
Platinum is seldom found in its original state. Usually, this metal is present on the Earth’s crust mixed with some other metals like nickel, iridium or osmium. Sometimes, though rarely, it is also found mixed with sulfur or arsenic in different parts of the world. However, platinum is mainly mined in Columbia, Russia, Canada, Peru and South Africa. Often an alloy is formed by adding iridium to platinum.
Most people know about platinum because it is used in jewellery. In fact, 90 per cent of this metal is consumed for making jewellery. However, platinum has several other applications, for instance catalytic converters meant for automobiles use this metal in the form of a catalyst. In addition, it is also employed in electroplating, in dental crowns, and for making crucibles. It is also blended with cobalt for making magnets.
Platinum also has a number of special uses, such as in the production of superior quality weights and measures. While the Standard Hydrogen Electrode definition incorporates platinum, the global standard for the kilogram is 90 percent platinum. Platinum also has a number of applications in the field of medical science. For instance, this precious metal is used in surgical pins, surgical equipment, and making dental crowns and also used in the form of an anti-tumour agent. Studies have shown that platinum helps to shrink tumours in the human body.
Platinum possesses anti-corrosion property and, hence, it is among the metals that are least reactive. This metal’s resistance to corrosion is very remarkable – it can resist corrosion even at very high temperatures. Therefore, platinum is said to be a noble metal. As a result, it is often found as native platinum, which his chemically not combined with other substances. Generally platinum is found occurring naturally in the alluvial sands of different rivers and, hence, the natives of Columbian South American initially used this metal to make artifacts.
Over the years, applications of platinum has increased and today this metal is used in laboratory tools, catalytic converters, platinum resistance thermometers, electrical electrodes and contacts, dentistry equipment and of course for making jewellery. As platinum is a heavy metal having a high density, it often results in health issues when a person is exposed to the metal’s salts. On the other hand, as platinum has high resistance to corrosion, no adverse health effects of using metallic platinum has been reported so far. These days various compounds of platinum are used for treating a number of cancer forms, especially in chemotherapy. These compounds include carboplatin, oxaliplatin and cisplatin.
Platinum is an expensive metal which is very useful in laboratories owing to its unique properties. This metal has a very high melting point and resists oxidization. At the same time, unadulterated platinum is extremely malleable and, hence, it does not affect the result of any kind of experiment.
This is the reason why many basic equipment used in laboratories are made from this metal. This gives improved and more precise results. Moreover, it is also an excellent metal for making instruments that are used to measure extremely high temperatures. Since it is able to resist very high temperatures, platinum can also be utilized for coating several things, such as fuel nozzles and even missiles.
In terms of medical science, the applications of platinum are much more than the metal’s worth in money. It is an excellent metal for using in pacemakers owing to its anti-corrosion property. As a result, it will not corrode inside the body. For the same reason, it is also used in several drugs, especially those meant for treating cancer.
During researches, it was discovered that when platinum was placed next to a tumour in the human body it reduce in size significantly. From this, scientists came to the conclusion that platinum may play a vital role in combating specific types of cancer. Further research on this issue is on and it is believed that in future platinum may play a vital role in cancer treatment.
Since long, people have been using mercury for dental fillings. However, there has been a change in this trend in recent years. It is now well known that mercury has hazardous side effects on our body. Therefore, dentists have been looking for a new material to replace mercury. They found that platinum or another substance known as palladium (which is generally blended with iridium or ruthenium) to make artificial teeth and crowns. These materials are not only very durable, but will also not wear away inside the mouth.
Platinum: Industrial applications
Platinum has a number of industrial applications. It plays important roles in nitric acid manufacture. It is also used in silicones, computer hard disks, crucibles, electronic components, sensors and manufacture of glass.
Silicones: Platinum compounds are added other substances to help regulate curing and also attain the different attributes needed of the various uses silicones have in our daily life.
Nitric acid: Since the last one century, catalysts having platinum as a base are now being used in manufacturing nitric acid on a commercial scale.
Crucibles: As both platinum and iridium melt at very high temperatures and resists chemical attacks, they are the preferred materials for manufacturing crucibles, which are used to melt metals and other substances.
Electronic components: It is important to note that these days palladium-coated components are virtually used in all types of electronic devices.
Computer hard disks: Since platinum possesses the ability to enhance the data storage capacity of the computer hard disk, these days the magnetic layers of all computer hard disks have platinum.
Sensors: Sensors containing platinum have various applications, such as measuring the NOx and oxygen levels in the car’s engine control systems and also to detect presence of carbon monoxide in the safety devices in our homes. In addition, platinum is used in foil, wire and disc electrodes of a variety of sensors present in medical equipment.
Medical applications: Platinum works to slow down all living cell division. Hence, this property of platinum has been used to manufacture a wide range of platinum-based medicines for treating cancer.
Glass: Platinum is widely used in manufacturing glass. The basic property of platinum – strength, high melting point and the resistance it offers to corrosion helps this element to endure molten glass’ abrasive action.
Platinum has a number of other uses. This metal has a number of applications in the petroleum industry. Since it is a very potent catalyst, platinum is used for accelerating production. When platinum is exposed to specific elements as well as a number of other substances, it brings about quick chemical reactions, thereby accelerating the process used to refine crude oil for various uses.