Chapter

Malleable Platinum

Melvyn C. Usselman

in Pure Intelligence

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2015 | ISBN: 9780226245737
Published online January 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780226245874 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226245874.003.0004
Malleable Platinum

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This chapter describes the difficulties 18th century chemists encountered trying to produce commercially-useful platinum from the alluvial deposits of crude platina found in the rivers of New Granada in South America. Based on experimental data from his research notebooks, a description is given of Wollaston’s improved multi-step purification procedure which yielded platinum of high purity. Success was due primarily to careful control over the amounts and relative quantities of nitric and muriatic acids in the aqua regia solvent. In April, 1801, Wollaston was able for the first time to compress spongy platinum powder into a malleable ingot. He soon perfected the process and began to prepare thousands of ounces of the metal for later sale, although he kept his process secret and did not market the metal because he suspected that there were one or more new elements to be discovered in the crude ore.

Keywords: William Hyde Wollaston; alluvial platina; aqua regia; spongy platinum; malleable platinum; commercial secrets

Chapter.  10640 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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