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Metallic chemical element, one of the transition elements, chemical symbol Pt, atomic number 78. A very heavy, silvery white precious metal, it is soft and ductile, with a high melting point (3,216 °F [1,769 °C]) and good resistance to corrosion and chemical attack. Small amounts of iridium are commonly added for a harder, stronger alloy that retains platinum's advantages. Platinum is found usually as alloys of 80–90% purity in placer deposits or more rarely combined with arsenic or sulfur. It is indispensable in high-temperature laboratory work for electrodes, dishes, and electrical contacts that resist chemical attack even when very hot. Platinum is used in dental alloys and surgical pins; alloys typically containing 90–95% platinum are used in expensive jewelry. The international primary standard for the kilogram is made of 90% platinum, 10% iridium. Platinum has valence 2 or 4 in its compounds, which include many coordination complexes. It and some compounds are useful catalysts, particularly for hydrogenation and in catalytic converters for reducing automobile emissions.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on platinum, visit Britannica.com.