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Platinum Group Metals

The platinum group metals (abbreviated as the PGMs; alternatively, the platinoids, platidises, platinum group or platinum metals) sometimes collectively refers to six metallic elements clustered together in the periodic table. ]


These elements are all transition metals, lying in the d-block (groups 8, 9, and 10, periods 5 and 6).The six platinum group metals are ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium and platinum. They have similar physical and chemical properties, and tend to occur together in the same mineral deposits.PropertiesThe platinum metals have outstanding catalytic properties. They are highly resistant to wear and tarnish, making platinum, in particular, well suited for fine jewelry. Other distinctive properties include resistance to chemical attack, excellent high-temperature characteristics, and stable electrical properties. 


All these properties have been exploited for industrial applications.SourcesPlatinumSperrylite (platinum arsenide, PtAs2)ore is a major source of this metal. A naturally occurring platinum-iridium alloy, platiniridium, is found in the mineral cooperite (platinum sulfide, PtS). Platinum in a native state, often accompanied by small amounts of other platinum metals, is found in alluvial and placer deposits in Colombia, Ontario, the Ural Mountains, and in certain western American states. Platinum is also produced commercially as a by-product of nickel. ore processing. 


The huge quantities of nickel ore processed makes up for the fact that platinum makes up only two parts per million of the ore. South Africa, with vast platinum ore deposits in the Merensky Reef of the Bushveld complex, is the world's largest producer of platinum, followed byRussia. Platinum and palladium are also mined commercially from the Stillwater iqneous complex in Montana, USA.OsmiumIridiosmium is a naturally occurring alloy of iridium and osmium found in platinum-bearing river sands in the Ural Mountains and in North and South America. Trace amounts of osmium also exist in nickel-bearing ores found in the Sudbury region along with other platinum group metals. Even though the quantity of platinum metals found in these ores is small, the large volume of nickel ores processed makes commercial recovery possible. 


 IridiumMetallic iridium is found with platinum and other platinum group metals in alluvial deposits. Naturally occurring iridium alloys include osmiridium and iridiosmium, both of which are mixtures of iridium and osmium. It is recovered commercially as a by-product from nickel mining and processing.RutheniumRuthenium is generally found in ores with the other platinum group metals in the Ural Mountains and in North and South America. Small but commercially important quantities are also found in pentlandite extracted from Sudbury, Ontario and in pyroxenite deposits in South Africa.RhodiumThe industrial extraction of rhodium is complex as the metal occurs in ores mixed with other metals such as palladium, silver, platinum, and gold. 


It is found in platinum ores and obtained free as a white inert metal which is very difficult to fuse. Principal sources of this element are located in river sands of the Ural Mountains, in North and South America and also in the copper-nickel sulfide mining area of the Sudbury Basin region. Although the quantity at Sudbury is very small, the large amount of nickel ore processed makes rhodium recovery cost effective. However, the annual world production in 2003 of this element is only 7 or 8 tons and there are very few rhodium minerals.PalladiumPalladium is found as a free metal and alloyed with platinum and gold with platinum group metals in placer deposits of the Ural Mountains of Eurasia, Australia, Ethiopia, South and North America. However it is commercially produced from nickel-copper deposits found in South Africaand Ontario, Canada. 


The huge volume of nickel-copper ore processed makes this extraction profitable in spite of its low concentration in these ores.ProductionThe production of pure platinum group metals normally starts from residues of the production of other metals with a mixture of several of those metals. One typical starting product is the anode residue of gold or nickel production. The differences in chemical reactivity and solubility of several compounds of the metals under extraction are used to separate them.A first step is to dissolve all the metals in aqua reqia forming their respective nitrates. If silver is still present, this is then separated by forming insoluble silver chloride. Rhodium sulfate is separated after the salts have been melted together with sodium hydrogensulpfate and leached with water. The residue is then melted together with sodium peroxide, which dissolves all the metals and leaves the iridium. The two remaining metals, ruthenium and osmium, form ruthenium and osmium tetroxides after chlorine has been added to solution. The osmium tetrooxide is then dissolved in alcoholic sodium hydroxide and separated from the ruthenium tetroxides. All of these metals' final chemical compounds can ultimately be reduced to the elemental metal using hydrogen.