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Platinum's Industrial Use: Interactive Chart

See how industrial use of platinum is changing...
 
PLATINUM is primarily used as an industrial metal today. Some estimates say it now helps create one-fifth of all manufactured objects.
 
Although unprovable, such claims highlight the key role platinum plays in almost every aspect of modern life.
 
First identified as a separate element by European scientists in the mid-18th Century, platinum stood out from all other metals they knew for its hardness, high melting point and resistance to corrosion or chemical reactions. 
 
Today those features make platinum invaluable to a huge range of industrial processes and products, from fertilizers to fiberglass, anti-cancer drugs to thermocouples in furnaces and kilns.
 
This interactive chart from BullionVault shows how platinum's industrial use has changed and grown since 1980. Using historic platinum data from refining and technology specialists Johnson Matthey, the infographic tracks demand for each year (in millions of Troy ounces) against the annual average platinum price in US Dollars (right axis).
 
Each category of industrial use listed here saw demand in 2017 beat its previous half-decade average. Jewelry and investment demand both fell in contrast, each dropping to their lowest levels in a decade.
 
Electrical demand set an 11-year high on Johnson Matthey's data, with the glass sector's use strongest since 2010, petroleum's strongest since 2011, and medical plus 'other' combined setting a new all-time high.
 
Beneath the infographic you will find a brief description of each industrial category, plus how it uses platinum today.
 
 
How do each of these industrial sectors use platinum?
 

Autocatalysts

Platinum's single heaviest use currently comes from the auto sector, where the metal is used to reduce harmful emissions, most notably from diesel engines. Placed in the exhaust system of a truck or car, a very fine coating of platinum speeds up the reaction of oxygen with both deadly carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrocarbons (so-called 'greenhouse gases'), turning them into less harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) and water, and also reducing the output of sulfur particles. 
 

Chemicals industry

Again acting as a catalyst to boost the speed and efficiency of chemical reactions, platinum is essential in producing many key industrial, agricultural and household chemicals. Nitric acid tops the list, making nitrogen fertilizers vital to farming as well as explosives (the United States banned non-military use of platinum in both World Wars), followed by nylon, polyurethane and a host of other everyday plastics.
 
The greatest chemicals demand for platinum comes for creating speciality silicones according to technology specialists Johnson Matthey. Platinum compounds are used in everything from sealants to electrical wire insulation, lubricants to kitchen utensils.
 

Electrical and electronic use

The late 20th Century's revolution in digital data storage was enabled by platinum, coated onto the platters used in hard disc drives. Demand peaked in 2000, with 'thrifting' by technology manufacturers now coinciding with a slowdown in new HDD shipments.
 

Glass manufacturing

Holding and channelling molten glass requires tools that can both withstand temperatures of 1700°C and also avoid corroding or reacting with the silicates and other materials used. That makes platinum uniquely ideal. Fiber glass, for instance, is produced by drawing the glass through a platinum sieve called a 'bushing'.
 

Petroleum refining

The most consistent industrial use of platinum over the last four decades, the oil refining industry uses the metal as a catalyst for 'cracking' low-grade fuel into more efficient forms including gasoline, diesel and jet-engine fuel.
 

Medical & Biomedical

Stents, catheters, guidewires, neuromodulators, defibrillators and all pacemakers use platinum components because, like gold, it doesn't react with the chemicals in human tissue but it is much harder-wearing than the yellow metal. Platinum's anti-cancer potential was first discovered in the early 1960s, with commercial production of cisplatin drugs starting the following decade and research into new treatments continuing today.
 

Other industrial uses

Platinum's resistance to both corrosion and very high heat make it ideal for a huge range of industrial sensors, from thermocouples in furnaces to exhaust-gas control systems and carbon monoxide detectors in homes and offices, as well as high-spec labroratory equipment. Platinum-based coatings protect jet-engine blades (temperatures reach 2000°C); it's found on the tip of high-performance spark plugs; and fuel-cell technology is a fast-growing alternative to gasoline and diesel combustion engines.
 
Learn more about the incredible range of platinum's uses today in this infographic.

 

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