Autocatalysts represent the largest end-use for platinum, supported by ever-tightening emissions legislation globally. Platinum is an effective catalyst for the conversion of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide to harmless compounds, particularly in diesel engines, both light-and heavy-duty. Adding some palladium to the formulation along with the platinum can increase the thermal stability and hence durability of the autocatalyst, helping to ensure that the vehicle complies with emissions standards for its operational lifetime. While battery electric vehicles are expected to compete for market share in light-duty vehicles, heavy-duty diesel vehicles remain important for platinum.
Jewellery is the second most important demand segment, currently representing around a third of global platinum demand.
China dominates the market for platinum jewellery, with specific demographic and cultural factors particularly important, especially for the development of the bridal jewellery market. Platinum Guild International (PGI), an industry body responsible for promoting the use of platinum in jewellery, continues to develop and promote platinum jewellery around the world in partnership with metal producers, jewellery fabricators, designers and retailers.
Platinum-based catalysts are also key to many large-scale industrial chemical processes. They ensure high-quality production with fewer by-products and more efficient use of input raw materials, frequently along with lower energy use in the process. Nitric acid and silicone production form the largest industrial demand sector. The petroleum industry also makes use of platinum catalysts to help synthesise fuels such as gasoline from crude oil.
Platinum tooling, thanks to its extremely high temperature stability and purity, is used in the fabrication of glass including display glass and glass fibre. Platinum’s biocompatibility and purity make it the material of choice in a variety of medical procedures and implants, as well as in the pharmaceutical industry where platinum-based drug molecules have a strong track record in various cancer treatments.
Many electrical applications also consume platinum, primarily in hard disk drives used for data storage, in automotive sensors for optimising the operation of autocatalysts for better emissions control and in spark plugs to improve fuel efficiency.
Platinum is increasingly being recognised as having an important role in the developing hydrogen economy, both as a catalyst metal in some electrolyser technologies to produce hydrogen from water and in some fuel cells used in vehicles and stationary applications to convert hydrogen into energy.
Information above provided by SFA (Oxford)