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Science Innovation Centre · 078 · Platinum

This element is no longer available.

The name platinum is derived from the Spanish “platina”, meaning “little silver”.

Platinum is a lustrous silvery-white, malleable, ductile metal and a member of group 10 of the periodic table of the elements. It has the third highest density, behind osmium and iridium. Platinum is unaffected by air and water, but will dissolve in hot aqua regia, in hot concentrated phosphoric and sulphuric acids, and in molten alkali. It is as resistant as gold to corrosion and tarnishing. Indeed, platinum will not oxidize in air no matter how strongly it is heated.

Platinum has many uses. Its wear- and tarnish-resistance characteristics are well-suited for making fine jewellery. Platinum and its alloys are used in surgical tools, laboratory utensils, electrical resistance wires, and electrical contact points. It is used (30%) as a catalyst in the catalytic converter, an optional component of the gasoline-fuelled automobile exhaust system. The largest use (50%) of platinum is for jewellery, another 20% is used in industry: platinum is used in the chemical, electrical, glass and aircraft industries, each accounting for about 10 tonnes of the metal per year. The glass industry uses platinum for optical fibres and liquid crystal display glass, especially for laptops.