Geology Home Page physical geology historical geology planetary gems
Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Parker Henneman
What is it good for
While it’s true that platinum is becoming more and more popular as jewelry these days that is merely cosmetic, and no matter how pretty something may be that does not make it useful. During this presentation i wish to look at how Platinum helps the advancement of humanity as a whole and not how it looks on your finger.
known to the natives of south america for an unknown number of years and used
occasionally in their artwork. Platinum was largely considered a nuisance as it
got in the way of mining gold and silver. Named Platina meaning “little
silver” by the locals this is a poor start to finding platinum's usefulness.
It was not until it’s discovery in 1735 by the spanish explorer, astronomer, and governor of Louisiana, Antonio de Ulloa. That true scientific study on this new metal began at first scientists were quite taken with platinum. Highly resistant to corrosion and extremely ductile it was an interesting discovery to say the least but with no noticeable purpose at the time it soon lost their interest. Soon it’s only reasonable purpose was determined to be as jewelry keeping platinum a “useless” material and starting a “platinum age in Spain”.
Then in 1784 the French got their hands on platinum. Louis XVI became
inthralled with platinum and while he thought little of it outside of fancy
buttons and shiny spoons. His fervor led others to the new metal and soon
platinum was being used in scientific equipment, glass making, and even in gun
parts. Then the French revolution came about and platinum was once again buried
(example of an early battery)
In the 1820’s platinum underwent a rediscovery with the marvelous invention of batteries. Due to it’s high density and natural ability to absorb relatively large quantities of hydrogen Platinum was finally able to prove its worth. Helping humanity advance further in 50 years than the 600 before it. While eventually it was replaced by nickel and other cheaper materials. It must be noted that without platinum are current level of technology would have taken much longer to reach.
With the start of the 1900’s platinum research advanced by leaps and bounds. In 1968 platinum was decided to be an excellent catalyst in the creation of nitric acid leading to improved fertilizers and nitrate based explosives. In 1977 it was found that a platinum based drug called cisplatin helped slow and stop the spread of cancer particularly testicular cancer.
Platinum has shown it’s greatest worth however in the development of data
storage. In 1957 IBM released one of the first Hard disks storing just 5
megabytes and measuring 24 inches in diameter. But with the addition of platinum
we now have drives (name changed) the size of your hand that store terabytes.
Thus during this age of computers platinum has shown its greatest
accomplishments and will no doubt continue to prove itself in the ages to come.
Platinum: chemical element
Melting point: 3,215℉
Boiling point: 6,917℉
Atomic Number: 78
Atomic mass: 195.084 u