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Platinum (Pt)

QUICK REFERENCE

  • Symbol: Pt
  • Atomic Number: 78
  • Atomic Weight: 195.084
  • Element Classification: Transition Metal
  • Discovered By: Known to ancient South Americans; recognized as a distinct element by Europeans in the 16th century
  • Discovery Date: Prehistoric times for indigenous people; formally described in Europe in the 18th century
  • Name Origin: Spanish: ‘platina’, meaning “little silver”
  • Density(g/cc): 21.45
  • Melting Point: 1768.3°C
  • Boiling Point: 3825°C
  • Appearance: Silvery-white, lustrous, ductile, and malleable metal
  • Atomic Radius(pm): 139

Discovery

Platinum was known to ancient South American civilizations and was used in artifacts and jewelry. Europeans were introduced to platinum in the 16th century when the Spanish discovered the metal in the New World. However, it was not recognized as a distinct element until the 18th century. Antonio de Ulloa is often credited with bringing platinum to Europe and beginning its study. The name “platinum” comes from the Spanish word ‘platina’, meaning “little silver,” referring to its appearance and its initial consideration as an unwelcome impurity in silver mining operations.

Relation to Other Elements

Platinum is a member of the platinum group metals (PGMs), which includes palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, osmium, and iridium. These metals share similar physical and chemical properties, such as resistance to corrosion and oxidation, making them highly valuable for various industrial, electronic, and chemical processes. Platinum is distinguished by its excellent catalytic properties, electrical conductivity, and thermal stability.

Natural Occurrence

Platinum is a rare metal, found in the Earth’s crust at very low concentrations. It occurs naturally in alluvial deposits and is often alloyed with other PGMs and gold. The largest platinum-producing countries are South Africa, Russia, and Zimbabwe. The extraction of platinum is complex, involving the mining of ore, followed by various processes to separate the platinum from other metals and impurities.

Uses

Platinum’s unique properties have led to its use in a wide range of applications:

  • Catalysis: Platinum is used as a catalyst in the automotive industry in catalytic converters to reduce harmful emissions. It is also vital in the chemical industry for processes such as the production of nitric acid, silicone, and benzene.
  • Jewelry: Due to its luster, rarity, and resistance to tarnishing, platinum is highly prized for use in fine jewelry.
  • Electronics: Platinum is used in electrical contacts, wires, and other components due to its excellent conductivity and resistance to corrosion.
  • Medical Devices: Platinum’s biocompatibility makes it suitable for use in medical devices, including pacemakers and implantable defibrillators.
  • Investment: Platinum is considered a precious metal and is traded as an investment commodity.

The discovery and utilization of platinum have significantly impacted various industries, from automotive to healthcare. Its exceptional chemical and physical properties continue to make it a material of choice for high-technology applications, catalysis, and luxury goods.

 

Iridium (Ir)

Gold (Au)