Platinum – Naming, Occurrence, Properties, Uses and Isotopes

Introduction to Platinum element

Platinum, classified as a transition metal located in group number 10 and period number 6 of the periodic table. The atomic number of platinum is 78 whereas its atomic mass is 195.084. The single neutral atom of platinum contains 78 electrons. The nucleus of platinum contains 78 protons and 117 neutrons. It is represented by the symbol “Pt”.

Naming and History

The name Platinum is derived from the Spanish word “Platina” which means “Little silver”.

An ancient Egyptian casket from around the 7th century, B.C, provided probably the oldest known specimen of platinum. Otherwise, Asia and Europe did not know it for almost the next two millennia.

  • Julius C Scaliger

Julius C Scaliger, an Italian scientist in 1557 first wrote about metal that could not melt by fire or any other object. He further described that it was present in the mines between Mexico and Panama.

  • Francois Chabaneaus

Francois Chabaneaus, a French chemist in 1783 discovered a feasible and viable method for the production of platinum. But the metal was not pure and high quality. There were many impurities in the sample.

  • William Wollaston

In the early 19th century, an English scientist William Wollaston developed the process for the production of pure platinum metal.

Occurrence of Platinum

Platinum exists in uncombined as well as combined form in nature. Its nuggets are independently found. In a combined state, it occurs in ores and iridium-platinum or osmium-platinum alloys. It is a rare and valuable metal. The major producers of Platinum are South Africa, Russia, and North America.

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It is also found in gold-bearing sands of the Ural Mountains, Canada, Columbia, and western America. The ore sperrylite also contains platinum. Sometimes it is also obtained as a by-product of nickel mining.

Properties of Platinum

Platinum is the silverish-whitish, soft, malleable, ductile, precious, valuable, and rare metal with a magnificent lustrous sheen. It is the third most dense element of all elements just after osmium and iridium. It is highly corrosion-resistant. It remains unaffected by water and air. It does not oxidize in the air on heating.

Hot concentrated sulphuric acids and phosphoric acids, molten alkalies, and hot aqua regia attack the metal. Halogens and cyanides also affect platinum. The melting point of platinum is 1768.4°C and its boiling point is 3825°C. It has a density of 21.46 grams per cubic centimeter. Platinum metal exists in the solid phase at room temperature.


Biological Importance of Platinum

Platinum element has no role in biological systems. It is considered to be a non-toxic element.

Uses of Platinum

  1. Due to its silverish-whitish color, beautiful luster, and tarnish resistance, platinum is widely used in jewelry. Thus, it is the most valuable among gold and silver. About 50% platinum is used in jewelry.
  2. 30% of platinum is used as catalytic converters in mobile industries such as cars, buses, and trucks. In automobile gasoline-fueled exhaust systems, it is an optional component.
  3. Platinum is alloyed with cobalt to produce super magnets.
  4. Due to the equal thermal expansion coefficient to glass, it is widely used in making electrodes in the sealed glass.
  5. It is used in making wires, electrical contacts, resistant wires, and optical fibers.
  6. It is used in dental tools and fillings, pacemakers, and other surgical implants due to zero toxicity.
  7. Platinum is also used in laboratory vessels and utensils.
  8. Platinum is used in liquid crystal displays, especially in laptops, hard disks, and thermocouples.
  9. Tones of platinum metal are used in the aircraft industry, engine nozzles, and missile coats.
  10. Some platinum compounds are reported to be used in chemotherapy drugs and cancer treatments.
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Isotopes of Platinum

There are almost 35 known isotopes of platinum whose mass numbers range from 202 to 168. The naturally occurring and stable platinum is a mixture of six isotopes. The most abundant one of them is Pt- 194 with 33% abundance.