Platinum Means of Malleability

Carl von Sickingen studied platinum in 1772. He succeeded in making malleable platinum by mixing it with gold, dissolving the alloy in hot water, precipitating platinum with ammonium chloride, igniting chloroplatinate ammonium and hammering finely divided platinum to make it cohere. Franz Karl Achard made the first platinum crucible in 1784. He worked with platinum by fusing it with arsenic and then volatilizing arsenic.

platinum crucible

As other members of the platinum family have not yet been discovered (platinum was first in the list), Scheffer and Sickingen have made the false assumption that because of its hardness - slightly higher than that of iron pure - platinum flexible material, sometimes brittle, while in fact its ductility and malleability are close to that of gold. Their assumptions could not be avoided because the platinum they had experimented with was heavily contaminated by trace amounts of platinum family elements, such as osmium and iridium, among others, which weakened the platinum alloy. Combining this impure platinum residue called "plyoxen" with gold was the only solution at the time for a flexible compound, but nowadays, very pure platinum is available and extremely long platinum wires can be extracted from pure platinum, very easily, because of its crystalline structure, which is similar to that of many soft metals.

platinum wires

 In 1786, Charles III of Spain provided a library and a laboratory to Pierre-François Chabaneau to help him in his research on platinum. Chabaneau has successfully removed various impurities from the ore, including gold, mercury, lead, copper and iron. This led him to believe that he was working with only one metal, but in truth, the ore still contained the unexploited metals of the platinum group. This led to inconsistent results in his experiments. Sometimes platinum seemed malleable, but when it was alloyed with iridium, it was much more brittle. Sometimes the metal was entirely incombustible, but when it was alloyed with osmium, it volatilized. After several months, Chabaneau was able to produce 23 kilograms of pure and malleable platinum by hammering and compressing the shape of the sponge while heating white. Chabeneau realized that the infusibility of platinum would bring value to the objects that were made, and began an affair with Joaquín Cabezas who produced ingots and utensils in platinum. It started what is known as the "platinum age" in Spain.

About the author

Chin Trento

Chin Trento holds a bachelor’s degree in applied chemistry from the University of Illinois. His educational background gives him a broad base from which to approach many topics. He has been working with writing advanced materials for over four years in Stanford Advanced Materials (SAM). His main purpose in writing these articles is to provide a free, yet quality resource for readers. He welcomes feedback on typos, errors, or differences in opinion that readers come across.

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