Chemists Develop Easier Way To Find Platinum, Other Rare Metals

September 25, 2007

Finding uses for palladium and platinum-rare precious metals coveted by the automobile, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries as catalysts in chemical reactions-proves easier than finding the scarce materials themselves.

Detection involves expensive instruments operated by highly trained chemists that take days to return results. But chemists at the University of Pittsburgh have unearthed a fast, easy, and inexpensive method that could help in the discovery of palladium/platinum deposits and streamline the production of pharmaceuticals. The research will be published online Sept. 21 in the “Journal of the American Chemical Society.”

The new method was developed in the laboratory of Kazunori Koide (Ko-ee-deh), a chemistry professor in Pitt's School of Arts and Sciences. It relies on a colorless fluorescein-based solution (similar to that used to find blood residue at crime scenes) that-under a simple hand-held ultraviolet lamp-glows green when it comes in contact with even minute amounts of palladium and platinum, which coexist in nature.

The process takes approximately one hour as opposed to the effective but complex and days-long analysis currently employed in the mining and pharmaceutical industries, Koide explained. Moreover, the Pitt team's method can accommodate hundreds of samples at once whereas current technology analyzes samples only one at a time, Koide said.

“Our method can be used on the mining site,” he said. “And you don't need a doctorate in chemistry-anyone can do this.”

A major pharmaceutical company is currently evaluating Koide's method in detecting trace amounts of palladium in drug samples, Koide said. Although crucial in drug development, residual palladium in pharmaceuticals can be toxic, which means stringent chemical analysis is required to find this metal. Shortening the analysis to an hour will help get drugs to market faster and, in mining, find viable quantities of these essential metals.

Palladium and platinum are practically unmatched as catalysts and thus important to the chemical, pharmaceutical, and automobile industries (both are popular as jewelry, too). Palladium is most used in the catalytic converters that render car exhaust less toxic. But known palladium/platinum deposits dot only a few countries-including the United States and Canada-which makes the prices and supply unstable.

The paper can be found on the “Journal of the American Chemical Society” Web site at www.pubs.acs.org/journals/jacsat/ .

Source: University of Pittsburgh

Explore further: Combining the elements palladium and ruthenium for industry

Related Stories

Combining the elements palladium and ruthenium for industry

September 22, 2016

The chemical elements palladium (Pd) and ruthenium (Ru) are both used separately in the chemical industry. For a long time, researchers have thought that combining the two could lead to improved and novel properties for industrial ...

Recommended for you

Atlas of the RNA universe takes shape

December 7, 2016

As the floor plan of the living world, DNA guides the composition of animals ranging from unicellular organisms to humans. DNA not only helps shepherd every organism from birth through death, it also plays an essential role ...

Giant radio flare of Cygnus X-3 detected by astronomers

December 7, 2016

(Phys.org)—Russian astronomers have recently observed a giant radio flare from a strong X-ray binary source known as Cygnus X-3 (Cyg X-3 for short). The flare occurred after more than five years of quiescence of this source. ...

Dark matter may be smoother than expected

December 7, 2016

Analysis of a giant new galaxy survey, made with ESO's VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, suggests that dark matter may be less dense and more smoothly distributed throughout space than previously thought. An international team ...

Uncovering the secrets of water and ice as materials

December 7, 2016

Water is vital to life on Earth and its importance simply can't be overstated—it's also deeply rooted within our conscience that there's something extremely special about it. Yet, from a scientific point of view, much remains ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.