They are also both used in the treatment of certain cancers. Platinum and palladium are visible under x-ray and are extensively used in equipment needed for ‘keyhole’ surgery techniques.
Some of the lesser known applications of the PGMs include osmium’s use in forensic science to stain fingerprints, and in DNA analysis. As the hardest of all PGMs, osmium is also used to make fountain pen nibs, styluses and instrument pivots.
The history of PGMs
Platinum was discovered in 1735, and little was known about the PGMs before the early 19th century. This is due to the very properties that make them so sought-after today. The high melting points and resistance to corrosion that typify PGMs mean that complex techniques are needed to extract and refine the individual metals from the platinum ore.
Deposits of platinum are rare and concentrated in Southern Africa, where 80 per cent of the world’s reserves are located. Of the ore mined here, platinum accounts for more than half of the refined PGM content recovered.
Platinum, palladium and rhodium are the most economically important of the PGM family. Platinum is the most prominent of all due to its wide use across the broadest range of segments. As well as its industrial applications, platinum is a precious metal used in the fabrication of premium jewellery. Furthermore, platinum is established as the pre-eminent PGM metal for investment.