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Indispensable for Catalysts, Fuel Cells and Jewelry: Platinum

Characteristics of platinum

Platinum, from the Spanish word plata meaning “silver”, was first discovered as a component in Egyptian jewellery dating back to 3000 BC. It has the third highest density of all elements after iridium and osmium and a high melting and boiling temperature. This property makes it difficult to isolate and thus for a long time it was considered a mysterious, non-meltable metal.

In the 18th century, it could be isolated for the first time as purified platinum powder. From then on, the triumph of the precious metal took its course.


Platinum as Physical Asset

Areas of Application for Platinum

The greatest demand for platinum, 43 percent of global consumption, comes from the automotive sector. Here, the ceramic hearts of the catalytic converters are coated with the precious metals platinum, palladium and rhodium, depending on the drive technology, in order to filter exhaust gases.

The proportion of palladium is being reduced more and more in favour of platinum for economic reasons. Platinum catalysts are also used in the chemical and petrochemical industry. About a quarter of the annual demand for platinum goes to the jewellery industry.

In the future, fuel cell technology could be an important field of application. Platinum and iridium are needed as catalysts to produce emission-free and green hydrogen from wind or solar energy.

As a catalyst for fuel cells, platinum is best suited of all PGM metals.

Physical Asset Platinum

Worth Knowing

Around 80 percent of global platinum production comes from South Africa. For 2022, mine production is expected to reach 195 tonnes. Because the precious metal is so rare, recycling plays a major role: about 57 tonnes of platinum are expected to be recovered in 2022 by recycling autocatalysts.

Primary production can already no longer cover the forecast total demand of 216 tonnes. Any peaks in demand will be offset by recycled platinum alone. The World Platinum Council therefore speaks of a high supply risk. The German Raw Materials Agency also classifies the supply side as “critical”.

The increasing shortage could mean an increase in the price of the raw material. Platinum, which in the past decades was partly more expensive than gold, is currently considered historically undervalued.

Trend of Prices

platinum price development