Ancient alchemists tried just about anything to turn lead into gold. But if they had just had a laser, they might have been able to make pseudo-platinum.
More than half of the world's platinum goes into cars' catalytic converters, where it helps neutralize the carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide in exhaust. That demand is what drives platinum's price up. In 2009, Penn State University chemist A. Welford Castleman, Jr., used a laser to kick an electron off a molecule of tungsten carbide, giving it properties that allow it to act as platinum does. Tungsten carbide, a metallic compound just one thousandth the cost of platinum, won't pass as an engagement ring, but it could bring down platinum's price by stepping in for grittier jobs.
Castleman hopes to repeat the trick with groups of tungsten carbide molecules, while also finding stand-ins for other rare elements. Like the alchemists, he still hasn't figured out how to transmute lead to gold, but he's happy to mimic the rest of the periodic table.
This article originally appeared in the May 2010 issue of Popular Science magazine.
Please consider changing the spelling of "Sceintests" in the header to "Scientists." Thanks!
So make with the cheap catalytic converters already!
Glad I didn't invest in platinum.
Will this work for fuel cell tech as well or is the mimiced chemistry only good for the function of the catalytic converter?
Why is it that popsci articles are so rushed and riddled with mispelled words and bad grammar? Who writes these, and why can't I have their jobs.
Unemployment is great, it gives me a chance to complain about the incompetence of others who get paid for such perfunctory performances while my brilliance and hard work goes unacknowledged.
Funny quip about not passing for engagement rings... Except that the jewelry stores are loaded with tungsten carbide wedding bands these days.
Define Irony: Someone who rails about an article rife with grammatical errors and then neglects to end a question with a question mark in said complaint while incorrectly spelling 'misspell'.
huh, they must of changed it already!
Wow! These comments are sounding real bitchy.
I'll come back tomorrow.
Logged in for the first time to say my wedding band is tungsten carbide. Doesn't scratch, dull, or wear. It is perfect for a man who understands the symbolism, and does not need rare materials to increase the value of this symbol. It is very functional, and affordable, and attractive. I recommend this to any one, as many men admire it. So in conclusion, instead of making stupid jokes, why don't you actually give us details about this process. You might offend less people, and even interest someone (possibly).
We know how to make gold just not from lead you need mercury instead.
It takes a little work to do but its not that bad.
Ruthenium, Rhodium and Palladium are normal byproducts in spent nuclear fuel, they can be extracted if you recycle the fuel instead of throwing it away.
In fact nuclear fission reactors are just big alchemy engines, turning uranium into all sorts of other elements. Not only the referenced fission products, but most importantly fissile plutonium 239 from nonfissile U238. Silly me, for a second I thought this article would be about nuclear (alchemic) transformations, not some chemical ionization process using lasers.
Silly us to think we might learn some science on pop science. I'm begining to think this site is to science, as like what emo is to punk....
Never listen to anyone who uses wikipedia as a source...
Bricktop: Nicely spelled run on sentence HAHAHA!!
Seriously, although Mr. Paradise didn't do a great job of proofreading his post, I agree with him that when it's your job to write well, you should actually do it. I just looked at another article, where it was claimed that an underwater bot would walk at 98 feet per second... Many READERS caught on that, 98 ft/sec is almost 67 miles per hour. Sadly the staff at PopSci felt that such fact checking was needless.
One look and a small amount of critical thinking would have been enough to avoid an embarrassing exaggeration.
Hmmm perhaps the new millenium requires a new science mag.
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Brian: Unfortunately, they managed to do this with A molecule, as in 1. Currently, we are better at manipulating anti-matter than doing this. I kind of doubt you will see any Tungsten-Carbide catalytic converters or fuel cells any time remotely soon.
Geebob: It should be the same. The Platinum is just a catalyst in both cases. As mentioned above though, even if it would work, going from 1 molecule to entire mass production is likely a very long ways off.
I still wouldn't invest in platinum though. Catalytic converters are using less and less platinum. Electric cars are becoming more main stream and making big improvements. Fuel Cells vehicles are still stuck in the same dead end. Platinum jewelry is constantly competing with many other types of jewelry.
In short: Platinums demand is likely to go down across the board.
Fact of the matter is if this technology was made public then world economy's would collapse overnight!
I personally believe that alchemy in form of a 3d printer is our future, now just to harness the power of a supernova in a microwave sized device.
We know how gold could be made - we dotn have the means to do so.
We cant rearrange protons, neturons yet.
But we do have particle colliders that soemtimes create gold atoms.
Platinum will still be a catalytic material in demand for many purposes. Demand for jewelry will depend on fashion trends.
Supply is bound to become more erratic. In the medium to long term it will go up. But that is just my opinion, don't bet on it.
Alchemy? I thought this was Popular SCIENCE.
P.S. Before you critique spelling and grammar, make sure you don't make any.
Some of the other platinum group metals like rhodium and palladium are also great catalysts. alchemy "precipitated" science, and laid the groundwork for the basis of chemistry. (plus the king would pay the bills, hoping for immortality, unless he threw you in jail first)
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