The MGS Precious Metals Blog

Manhattan Gold & Silver is an industry leader in precious metal pricing and refining with more than 30 years of experience. During our time in the business, we’ve found the topic of precious metals to be a vast and interesting one. Here on our precious metals blog, we write in-depth posts about the science of precious metal refining, historical and modern uses for precious metals, market news, and much more. Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay current, and discuss the latest posts on our Facebook and Google+ pages.

For the First Time, Olympic Medals will be made Completely from Recycled Electronics

November 21, 2017 07:00
For the First Time, Olympic Medals will be made Completely from Recycled Electronics

Organizers of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo have partnered with the Japan Environmental Sanitation Center and telecom company NTT Docomo in a campaign to make all of the game’s medals from donated e-waste.

While the design and even the composition of Olympic medals has changed many times, they’ve never been made completely out of recycled metals. For the 2010 Winter Games, Canada made history as the first host-country to make Olympic medals using e-waste. However, it was in very small amounts – up to 1.52% of recycled material per gold medal. Japan intends to make Olympic history and build on that idea by manufacturing all of the event’s 5,000 medals using 100% e-waste.

Evoking a sense of national collaboration, the organizing committee and their partners put out a call for Japanese citizens to donate their old smartphones at more than 2,400 collection boxes spread across public offices and NTT Docomo stores. The goal is to collect 8 tons of smartphones – which should yield about 2 tons of usable material after processing. It’s estimated that Japan produces about 650,000 tons of e-waste annually, so there should be plenty of time before the games in 2020. These efforts are yet another example of the importance of precious metal recycling.

Volkswagen Cars now come with Silver Windshields

September 7, 2017 07:00
Volkswagen Cars now come with Silver Windshields

Precious metals have been a part of automotive technology for decades - from gold-plated electrical connections, to catalytic converters that rely on platinum and palladium. This year, Volkswagen announced a new innovation: windshields that use silver to defrost in winter and reflect heat during summer.

Usually, self-defrosting car windows work by using the heat generated by electrical filaments embedded in the glass. While effective, the filaments can be seen when lit from certain angles – hampering visibility for the driver. Volkswagen’s climate windscreen provides perfect visibility by heating up without the use of any filament wires. Instead, the windshield incorporates a transparent layer of silver sandwiched between laminated glass. Because silver is the most electrically conductive metal in the world, a small current is enough to uniformly defrost the entire windshield in seconds.

Volkswagen also claims that the layer of silver reflects up to 60% of infrared light from the sun. This should keep the interior cooler during summer months… if you don’t factor in the sunlight passing through the non-silver windows, that is.

The climate windscreen is an optional upgrade for Volkswagen's Golf, Golf Sportsvan, Tiguan, Sharan, Passat and Passat Variant models. Pricing starts at $365 – but since bigger windshields contain more silver; the final price is model dependent. Volkswagen hasn’t announced how much silver they use to make their climate windscreens, but we can guess. If we consider the current price of silver and assume the manufacturers’ cost is around $300 for plain windshield glass, there may be up to 3 ounces of silver in each windshield. But, since the silver is so thin that it’s see-through, the actual amount is probably much less. If that's the case, then we probably would not accept the windshields for refining; we would consider this to be low-grade material.

Toyota's New Catalytic Converter uses 20% Less PGMs

September 5, 2017 07:00
Toyota's New Catalytic Converter uses 20% Less PGMs

Earlier this year, Toyota announced that they created a new design for the catalyst substrate structures used in catalytic converters. The Flow Adjustable Design Cell (FLAD®) substrate purifies exhaust fumes just well as current technology, but uses 20% less precious metals. Moreover, through a partnership Denso (one of the world's largest automotive component manufacturers), Toyota is able to mass-produce the new catalyst. Going forward, this could have a major impact on the automotive industry and precious metal markets.
Catalytic converters use PGMs (i.e. platinum, palladium, and rhodium) as catalysts, which convert the toxic substances from engine exhaust into inert or less toxic substances. Ordinarily, the PGMs are wash-coated onto a substrate with a uniform honeycomb structure (pictured). Unfortunately, this design causes exhaust fumes to flow through at an uneven rate – causing the PGMs near the center of the substrate to wear out faster. Toyota's FLAD® substrate uses a different cross-sectional area at the inner portion compared to the outer portion, which promotes a more even flow of exhaust through the entire substrate. Because the center doesn't wear out as fast, it doesn't need to be reinforced with extra PGMs – that's why catalytic converters would require 20% less of them.
All cars have catalytic converters, so the auto manufacturing industry has a direct impact on the price of PGMs. A 20% decrease in demand from automakers would cause PGM prices to decrease as well. Actually, a downtrend may have already started. Take a look at platinum prices from the last 12 months. After Toyota’s announcement on February 22, platinum prices fell almost 9% over the next 2 weeks. You can see the price drop again between April and May – right around the time that sales of the first car to use FLAD-based catalytic converters (the 2018 Lexus LC 500h) began. Then again, palladium prices haven’t followed the same trend.

While we have no idea how the PGM markets will fare, at least we’ll all get to enjoy cleaner air and longer lasting catalytic converters.

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