Ruthenium and iridium are used together in several industrial chemical processes, including the manufacture of acetic acid, a key intermediate in the manufacture of other bulk chemicals. An important catalyst market for ruthenium is the manufacturing of ammonia, driven by the need for nitrogen fertilisers for food production.
Both metals are used together in electrode coatings able to withstand the very harsh operating environment of a wide range of electrochemical processes, including the production of bulk chemical intermediates chlorine and sodium hydroxide.
There has been substantial growth in global ruthenium demand within the electrical sector for data storage. Ruthenium, along with platinum, forms part of the magnetic layer in hard disk drives. Chip resistors, another near-ubiquitous component in consumer and industrial electronics, rely on ruthenium-containing compounds, and this sector is becoming increasingly important for ruthenium demand. The unique chemical and physical properties of ruthenium mean that it is also utilised in numerous semiconductor materials and components, which enable increasing miniaturisation and efficiency in various electronic devices.
Source: SFA (Oxford)
Along with platinum, ruthenium is likely to play an important role in the hydrogen economy, due to its catalytic properties which make it effective in proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, which are highly scalable from small hand-held devices to heavy duty transport.
Information above provided by SFA (Oxford)