Platinum is more expensive and rarer than gold, by far. Still, it is a heavily traded precious metal. Soft and silvery-white, platinum is malleable, ductile, and has a high melting point. It is highly resistant to corrosion and oxidation, even at extremely high temperatures.
All these characteristics and many more make platinum one of the most sought-after metals for application in various industries.
Catalytic Converter of Diesel-powered Vehicles
A significant portion of platinum is used by the automotive industry, specifically in the catalytic converter of diesel vehicles. Platinum is used to coat a honeycomb structure made of ceramic or metal, forming the autocatalyst. This autocatalyst is then fitted into a steel canister to make a catalytic converter.
Catalytic converters are mounted to the diesel-powered vehicle’s exhaust system, intercepting the exhaust air generated by the engine before it goes to the muffler. They help reduce air pollution by converting 90% of the hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide from the exhaust gas into carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapour.
With the growing concern for the wellbeing of the planet, car companies are looking for ways to make their autocatalysts more efficient. As a result, the demand for platinum and other precious metals continue to rise.
Aside from being durable and highly conductive, platinum is biocompatible and does not react when inside the body. This makes it an ideal material for various applications in the medical industry.
Platinum can be moulded into wires, rods, ribbons, sheets, and small electronic parts to meet various medical needs. It is used in instruments that detect oxygen in blood gases. Medical devices such as neuromodulation instruments, stents, and catheters also have components that contain the precious metal. It is even integrated into drugs such as cisplatin and carboplatin, which are used to treat various types of cancer.
Platinum is also essential in the manufacturing process of gel or silicone rubber components and several types of medical implants used in joint replacement, artificial lumbar discs, and even breast implants.
Aviation and Agricultural Applications
The list is long when it comes to platinum’s applications in various industries. In agriculture, platinum catalysts are used to make nitric acid, an essential ingredient for fertiliser. In the aviation industry, the precious metal is used in turbine engines. Platinum catalysts are also used in the manufacture of aeroplane seals and gaskets.
The Electronic Industry
The electronic industry also has many components that involve platinum. It is normally used in the magnetic layers of computer hard disks and those in some TVs, gaming consoles, and other home entertainment systems.
It helps reduce the physical size of the disks and increase their storage capabilities. The optical fibres and liquid crystal display glass in laptops also have parts made from the precious metal. Trace amounts of platinum are also used on the circuit board of mobile phones.
The Automotive Industry
In the automotive industry, the application of platinum extends beyond the catalytic converter, although to a lesser extent. Proton exchange membrane or PEM fuel cells now used to power vehicles have platinum catalysts.
These fuel cells generate power more quickly and produce less noise. What is more, it only emits pure water as a by-product, making it the ideal fuel cell to reduce noise and air pollution. Automotive airbags and car spark plugs also contain platinum.