Other sections of this site take you through how platinum group metals (PGMs) are used in automotive, technological, industrial, medical and environmental applications.
But elements as versatile and unique as the PGMs have a myriad of uses that improve our lives without falling neatly into those categories. These can be products we all use everyday such as fountain pens or razor coatings or products used regularly by people working in certain fields such as forensic staining and aircraft spark plugs.
One of the first uses for osmium and iridium was as a coating for fountain pen nibs. This is still the case today, both as individual metals and alloyed together.
Due to their hardness, the performance and longevity of nibs, which would otherwise face rapid friction corrosion, is greatly enhanced.
To improve the look of glassware, glazes are applied containing platinum which help maintain enduring colour and lustre.
Platinum glazes can also be used to enhance engraving on glass.
An everyday object in everyone's bathrooms, both male and female razors have their sharpness and longevity enhanced by a coating of platinum (normally alloyed to chromium) which helps prevent friction corrosion.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors save lives from domestic fires and CO poisoning. They are crucial appliances in millions of houses and platinum plays a key role in each.
In CO detectors, a mixture including platinum isotopes is reduced to platinum metal by the presence of CO and changes colour, warning of the poisonous gasses presence.
As a smoke detector might only be used after long periods of inaction, its components must be durable and reliable which is why platinum - with its corrosion resistance, durability and conductivity - is used.
Aircraft Spark Plugs
The ignition of aircraft engines is dependent on the creation of a spark at exactly the right moment so that the fuel/air mixture in the engine can be efficiently converted into power.
Spark plugs create the high-voltage spark necessary whilst withstanding extremes of heat and pressure. With its high conductivity, high melting point, high temperature stability and corrosion resistance, iridium is ideal for firing tips (the active components in the plugs).
With similar properties, platinum, palladium, rhodium and iridium are used in automobile spark plugs.
The science of forensics is most famous for its detection of fingerprints and, in more recent times, the matching of DNA samples.
Osmium tetroxide (the metal's most common form) is used as a stain for fingerprints and DNA. It is relatively inert and does not harm the samples while efficiently revealing fats by binding at double bonds of unsaturated lipids and imparting a dense brownish or black colour.
Platinum catalysts are used in the production of silicone adhesive that - in the shape of pressure sensitive adhesive - makes notes stick to a surface, a common everyday product that almost everybody uses.