Platinum Group Metals

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Platinum Group Metals are commonly found in asteroids, most particularly the nickel-iron asteroids, and may possibly be found in lunar impact craters.

The platinum-group metals (PGM) comprise six closely related metals: platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and osmium, which commonly occur together in nature and are among the scarcest of the metallic elements. Along with gold and silver, they are known as precious or noble metals. Platinum group metals are rare on the surface of the earth because they are siderophiles, and hence tend to be segregated in liquid iron. This means that most of the Earth's inventory of platinum group metals is sequestered in the liquid iron at the Earth's core. Platinum group elements occur as native alloys in placer deposits or, more commonly, in lode deposits associated with nickel and copper. Nearly all of the world's supply of these metals are extracted from lode deposits in four countries--the Republic of South Africa, the U.S.S.R., Canada, and the United States. The Republic of South Africa is the only country that produces all six PGM in substantial quantities. - USGS Platinum-Group Metals Statistical Compendium[1]


The catalytic properties of the six platinum group metals (PGM)– iridium, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhodium, and ruthenium – are outstanding. Platinum's wear and tarnish resistance characteristics are well suited for making fine jewelry. Other distinctive properties include resistance to chemical attack, excellent high-temperature characteristics, and stable electrical properties. All these properties have been exploited for industrial applications. Platinum, platinum alloys, and iridium are used as crucible materials for the growth of single crystals, especially oxides. The chemical industry uses a significant amount of either platinum or a platinum-rhodium alloy catalyst in the form of gauze to catalyze the partial oxidation of ammonia to yield nitric oxide, which is the raw material for fertilizers, explosives, and nitric acid. In recent years, a number of PGM have become important as catalysts in synthetic organic chemistry. Ruthenium dioxide is used as coatings on dimensionally stable titanium anodes used in the production of chlorine and caustic. Platinum supported catalysts are used in the refining of crude oil, reforming, and other processes used in the production of high-octane gasoline and aromatic compounds for the petrochemical industry. Since 1979, the automotive industry has emerged as the principal consumer of PGM. Palladium, platinum, and rhodium have been used as oxidation catalyst in catalytic converters to treat automobile exhaust emissions. A wide range of PGM alloy compositions is used in low-voltage and low-energy contacts, thick- and thin-film circuits, thermocouples and furnace components, and electrodes. - USGS Platinum-Group Metals Statistics and Information[2]

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