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More Precious Metals Details

Platinum in Industry

In its modern application, platinum has many varied uses and offers continued potential.

The Many Applications Of Platinum

platinum in medical industry pacemaker
Platinum is used in the production of pacemakers. Image from

Although over half of all platinum production is used to make jewelry, it is increasingly being used in the medical, electronic, automobile, defense and aerospace industries.  It is also a key catalyst in many industrial processes.

Platinum has a wide range of applications in the medical field because it is chemically inert and a good conductor of electricity.  It is used in electronic medical implants including pacemakers and hearing aids.  Platinum electrodes are also being tested in clinical trials aimed at helping the victims of Parkinson’s disease.  

platinum gauze and wire
Platinum medical wire and platinum gauze. Photo courtesy of Johnson Matthey.

Surgically implanted stents, used to treat heart disease, are often made of a platinum-iridium wire mesh.  Drugs containing platinum are used to treat certain cancers.  Platinum is also used to make surgical instruments and in dental fittings.

lambda oxygen sensors
Lambda or oxygen sensors contain platinum and are essential components of auto emissions systems.  Photo courtesy of Robert Bosch and Johnson Matthey.

Platinum alloys often substitute for gold in electronic equipment.  Today, the largest single application of platinum in the electronic industry is for the magnetic coating of computer hard drives.  Platinum-cobalt alloys are slightly magnetic.  Today more than 90 percent of all computer hard drives are coated with this alloy, which enables the disks to store larger amounts of information.  

platinum in rocket engines
Platinum is used in rocket engines because they can withstand the extreme temperatures and corrosive conditions produced by rocket fuels.

In the automotive industry, platinum is used in the electronics of the engine, braking, and airbag deployment systems.  Because platinum alloys resist spark and heat damage, they are also used to coat the tops of spark plugs.  Platinum is a key component of the catalytic converters used to control automobile emissions.  

Platinum alloys play an important role in the defense and aerospace industries because they are incorporated into jet and rocket engines, which work in extremely hot and corrosive conditions caused by burning fuels.  Platinum alloys are also used to coat the nosecones of missiles.  The small rocket motors that maneuver satellites into place are also made of platinum alloys.  

platinum flute joint
Platinum flutes are known for their distinctive tone.

Platinum is employed as a catalyst in many industrial processes.  It is used to make detergents, fertilizers, plastics, explosives, and many types of acids.  Platinum-iridium crucibles are also used in many industrial processes.  They are used to make semiconductor crystals and the crystals that produce laser light.  They are also used to make the high-quality glass for television tubes and flat screen computer monitors.  

Pure platinum is also used to make quality flutes.  Although they are expensive, the density of the metal gives the flutes a distinctive tone.  

Next, learn about the history and significance of Potosí | The Famous Silver Mine of Bolivia.

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