Platinum is a chemical element with symbol Pt and atomic number 78. It is a dense, malleable, ductile, highly unreactive, precious, gray-white transition metal. Its name is derived from the Spanish term platina, which is literally translated into "little silver".
Platinum is a member of the platinum group of elements and group 10 of the periodic table of elements. It has six naturally occurring isotopes. It is one of the rarer elements in the Earth's crust with an average abundance of approximately 5 μg/kg. It occurs in some nickel and copper ores along with some native deposits, mostly in South Africa, which accounts for 80% of the world production. Because of its scarcity in the earth's crust, only a few hundred tonnes are produced annually, so, given its important uses, it is highly valuable and is a major precious metal commodity.
Platinum is the least reactive metal. It has remarkable resistance to corrosion, even at high temperatures, and is therefore considered a noble metal. Consequently, platinum is often found chemically uncombined as native platinum. Because it occurs naturally in the alluvial sands of various rivers, it was first used by pre-Columbian South American natives to produce artifacts. It was referenced in European writings as early as 16th century, but it was not until Antonio de Ulloa published a report on a new metal of Colombian origin in 1748 that it became investigated by scientists.
Platinum is used in catalytic converters, laboratory equipment, electrical contacts and electrodes, platinum resistance thermometers, dentistry equipment, and jewellery. Being a heavy metal, it leads to health issues upon exposure to its salts, but due to its corrosion resistance, it is not as toxic as some metals. Compounds containing platinum, most notably cisplatin, are applied in chemotherapy against certain types of cancer.
Pure platinum is a lustrous, ductile, and malleable, silver-white metal. Platinum is more ductile than gold, silver or copper, thus being the most ductile of pure metals, but it is less malleable than gold. Pure platinum is slightly harder than pure iron. The metal has excellent resistance to corrosion, is stable at high temperatures and has stable electrical properties. It does not oxidize at any temperature, although it is corroded by halogens, cyanides, sulfur, and caustic alkalis. Platinum is insoluble in hydrochloric and nitric acid, but dissolves in hot aqua regia to form chloroplatinic acid, H2PtCl6.
Its physical characteristics and chemical stability make it useful for industrial applications.Its resistance to wear and tarnish is well suited to use in fine jewelry.
Platinum, along with the rest of the platinum metals, is obtained commercially as a by-product from nickel and copper mining and processing. During electrorefining of copper, noble metals such as silver, gold and the platinum group metals as well as selenium and tellurium settle to the bottom of the cell as "anode mud", which forms the starting point for the extraction of the platinum group metals.
If pure platinum is found in placer deposits or other ores, it is isolated from them by various methods of subtracting impurities. Because platinum is significantly denser than many of its impurities, the lighter impurities can be removed by simply floating them away in a liquid. Platinum is also paramagnetic, while nickel and iron are both ferromagnetic. These two impurities are thus removed by running an electromagnet over the mixture. Because platinum has a higher melting point than most other substances, many impurities can be burned or melted away without melting the platinum. Finally, platinum is resistant to hydrochloric and sulfuric acids, while other substances are readily attacked by them. Metal impurities can be removed by stirring the mixture in either of the two acids and recovering the remaining platinum.
One suitable method for purification for the raw platinum, which contains platinum, gold, and the other platinum group metals, is to process it with aqua regia, in which palladium, gold and platinum are dissolved, while osmium, iridium, ruthenium and rhodium stay unreacted. The gold is precipitated by the addition of iron(II) chloride and after filtering off the gold, the platinum is precipitated as ammonium chloroplatinate by the addition of ammonium chloride. Ammonium chloroplatinate can be converted to the metal by heating. Unprecipitated hexachloroplatinate(IV) may be reduced with elemental zinc, and a similar method is suitable for small scale recovery of platinum from laboratory residues.