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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 metric tonnes) against the annual average platinum price in US Dollars.
Outside of autocatalysts, each category of industrial use listed here saw demand in 2019 beat its previous half-decade average. But the Covid Crisis starting in March 2020 then crushed economic activity worldwide, driving autocat demand for platinum to its lowest since the mid-1980s and hitting nearly every other source of industrial demand except electrical and electronics.
Now 2021 will see industrial platinum demand rise across every sector on Johnson Matthey's forecasts, with autocat demand (still the largest of all platinum uses) rising 40% year-on-year. Electrics and electronics use, net of the sector's recycling flows, will reach the greatest since 2007 while glass-making will match its record demand of 2011. Most exciting, the growing ‘hydrogen economy’ needs increasing quantities of platinum to help create green electricity as a competitor and complement to battery-electric technologies.
Source: BullionVault via Johnson Matthey, WPIC, LPPM
How do each of these industrial sectors use platinum?


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 then coinciding with a slowdown in new HDD shipments. That trend has now reversed thanks to the Covid pandemic's surge in home-computer use and most especially the boom in cloud computing – offered by giant server farms owned by firms led by Amazon Web Services (AWS) – needed to service work-from-home, video conferencing and online shopping.

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 laboratory 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. Hydrogen is mixed with oxygen and passed over a platinum catalyst, speeding their chemical reaction and producing pure water plus electricity.
Learn more about the incredible range of platinum's uses today in this infographic.



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