Not many people realize it, but platinum is pervasive in modern society. Without it, engineering and technology would be set back by 100 years. You may be wondering, “if platinum is so rare and expensive, how can it make everyday life possible?” The answer is because most of platinum’s use comes from the compounds derived from it – so only very small amounts of platinum are used up. Let’s take a look at some technologies that require platinum catalysts and compounds.
Specialized types of silicone are used in countless manufacturing applications. In order to impart certain properties to silicone (i.e. texture, adhesion, malleability, etc.) platinum compounds are added to the silicone mixture to catalyze the curing process, resulting in silicone with the desired properties.
Platinum is an essential catalyst in the production of gasoline. Small pellets are coated with a micro-thin layer of platinum. Through a process known as catalytic reforming, the pellets unlock the higher octane components of crude oil – which are used to create gasoline and other petrochemical products, like plastic.
When converted into certain chemical forms, platinum can cause living cells to stop dividing. The cells continue to grow, but they never divide or reproduce. This novel property has led to the development of platinum-based antineoplastic drugs that are useful for treating cancers and tumors.
In our next blog post, we’ll go over even more uses for platinum by focusing on applications that use whole platinum, rather than its compounds.