Platinum is a precious, silver-white metal that is even more valuable than gold. Platinum is also a chemical element and one of the heaviest substances known. A given quantity of platinum weighs about 21 times as much as an equal quantity of water.
Platinum has many special characteristics that make it valuable. Only gold and silver are easier to shape than platinum. It can be shaped and worked in almost every possible way. It does not corrode or tarnish when exposed to air, because it does not combine readily with oxygen or sulfur compounds found in air. Strong acids that dissolve most metals do not attack platinum. Platinum dissolves in a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid called aqua regia. It has a relatively high melting point of 1772 degrees C. It combines readily with arsenic, phosphorus, and silicon. Platinum also forms alloys with most other metals.
Platinum serves as an effective catalyst, a substance that speeds up chemical reactions. Automobile manufacturers use platinum in emission-control devices called catalytic converters. The oil industry also uses platinum to help break down fractions (parts) of petroleum to produce gasoline of a higher octane number. Platinum is also used as a catalyst in making various chemicals, such as acetic acid and nitric acid.
Description: Platinum is one of the few elements having an alchemical Symbol (alchemy is an ancient pursuit concerned with, for instance, the transformation of other metals into gold).
Discovered By: Julius Scaliger
Discovered In: Italy, 1557. Fairly large quantities were not discovered until about 1750, when the Spaniards found deposits in South America.
Origin: The name is derived from the Spanish word "platina", meaning silver.
Color: Greyish White
Chemical Symbol: Pt
Atomic Number: 78
Atomic Mass: 195.078