International Year of the Periodic Table 2019:…

sci:

2019 has been declared by UNESCO as the Year of the Periodic
Table. To celebrate, we are releasing a series of blogs about our favourite
elements and their importance to the chemical industry. Today, we investigate the
uses of platinum.

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Early uses

Around 1200BC, archaeologists discovered traces of platinum
in gold in ancient Egyptian burials. 

However, the extent of Egyptians’
knowledge of the metal remains unknown, which suggests that Egyptians might have been unaware that platinum existed in the gold.

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The Ancient Egyptians made elaborate masks for royals to wear once they were mummified.

Platinum was also used by South Americans with dates going
back 2000 years. Burial goods show that in the pacific coast of South America,
people were able to work platinum, producing artifacts of a white gold-platinum
alloy. 

Archaeologists link the South American tradition of platinum-working
with the La Tolita Culture. Archaeological sites show the highly artistic nature
of this culture, with the artifacts characterised by gold and platinum jewellery, and
anthropomorphic masks symbolising the hierarchical and ritualistic society.

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What are its properties?

Platinum is a silvery white metal, also known as ‘white
gold’. It is extremely resistant to tarnishing and corrosion and it is one of
the least reactive metals, unaffected by water and air, which means it will not
oxidise with air. 

It is also very soft and malleable, and therefore can be
shaped easily and due to its ductility, it can be easily stretched into wire.

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Platinum is a member of group 10 of the periodic table. The
group 10 metals have several uses including decorative purposes, electrical
components, catalysts in a variety of chemical reactions and play an important
role in biochemistry, particularly platinum compounds which have widely been used as anticancer
drugs. 

Additionally, platinum’s tarnish resistance characteristics makes it one the most
well-suited elements for making jewelry.


Biological role

Platinum
bonds are often used as a form of medicine in treatments for cancer. However,
the health effects of platinum are dependent on the kinds of bonds that are
formed, levels of exposure, and the immunity of the individual.

In 1844,
Michele Peyrone, an Italian chemist, discovered the anti-neo plastic
properties (apparently prohibiting the development of tumours) and later in
1971, the first human cancer patient was treated with drugs containing
platinum.

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Today,
approximately 50% of patient are treated using medicine which includes the rare metal. Scientists will look further into all the ways platinum drugs affect biology, and how to design better platinum drugs in the future. 


Tiffany Hionas is a Digital Media Intern at SCI. You can find more of her work here.

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