Unless you drive an electric car, your car likely has a catalytic converter. A catalytic converter is an essential vehicle part that controls the emission of exhaust fumes by your vehicle’s internal combustion engine.
By this, I mean that the catalytic converter will convert and break down those toxic fumes and pollutants from the emissions into less harmful substances through a redox reaction.
Catalytic converters are not limited to vehicles. Their uses are multi-faceted. You will also find them in generators, motorcycles, ships, forklifts, and even in mining equipment.
Also, converters are used in wood stoves to regulate and catalyze emissions.
What is Platinum?
First, let us see how the word platinum came to be. The word traces its origin back to Spanish, coined from the term ‘Platina.’ In Spanish, Platina means little silver. That is because it features a silvery but grey-whitish color. It is also soft and lustrous.
Fun fact: platinum is among the rarest elements around the globe! Its abundance in the earth’s crust is approximately 5ug/kg.
While it is mainly produced and exported from South Africa (the country accounts for over 80% of the world’s production), the discovery and use of the metal is ancient. It was first used in ancient Egypt more than 5,000 years ago. Later, its use spread to South America, where Inca Indians mostly used it.
It would later grow in popularity during the mid-1800s when its use substantially increased.
What are the unique features of this metal?
Platinum is very dense. It boasts a density of 21.5 g/cc. That explains why it is among the most valuable metals. Further, it is ductile and malleable and has a very high melting point – it melts at a temperature of about 1700 degrees Celsius, which translates to 3220 degrees Fahrenheit.
The metal is resistant to corrosion and does not discolor or fade after long periods of use. Thanks to these properties, it is the go-to choice for making jewelry, including wedding rings.
However, it is very unlikely that you will find jewelry made from 100% pure platinum. Is it because it is very rare and expensive? Well, my guess is as good as yours! Instead, this metal is always combined with other base metals to form alloys used in manufacturing.
What does it do in a Cat Converter?
In the catalytic converter, platinum helps to oxidize Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Hydrocarbons (HC) through the reduction-oxidation (redox) process, and the catalyst turns these toxic compounds into a less hazardous gaseous byproduct.
With platinum, palladium, and rhodium present in a catalytic converter, failing emissions tests is not a concern because they reduce the amount of pollutants in the exhaust.
Therefore, removing the cat converter from your car is strictly prohibited. Not only does removing the part hurt the environment, but also dangerous to the driver if the toxic exhaust gases leak into the car cabin.
What are its advantages over other catalyst metals?
Platinum has various benefits over other transition elements that can as well be used as catalyst metals.
Platinum has a high melting point. Despite the fact that platinum will never get near its melting point in the cat converter, this property indicates the material’s overall heat resistance.
When determining whether a material should be utilized in high-temperature applications, the material’s melting point is always an important factor to consider. This temp is often considered to be 1⁄2 the material’s melting point.
This provides platinum an edge over silver and gold, which are also catalytic materials.
Why Is Platinum So Expensive?
While platinum may be cheaper than gold, jewelry products made from platinum tend to be more expensive than those made from gold. What causes this variance? What is it that can make platinum to be so expensive?
Let’s dive in.
For emphasis, only about 5ug/kg of platinum can be found in the earth’s crust. This fact makes platinum among the rarest metals mined around the world. While 3,000 tons of gold are mined each year, only about 200 tons of platinum are mined.
The leading producer of platinum in the world today is South Africa, which accounts for over 80% of the 200 tons. It is followed closely by Russia, which produces between 10 and 20 percent of platinum, and then South America closes the list.
The problem is platinum deposits that are easily accessible have been depleted. Consequently, miners have to dig so deep to access this metal, thus increasing the production cost. Since the supply has plateaued over the years, the little available in our markets is sold at very hefty prices.
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Why is there such a big variance between the prices of jewel products made from platinum and those made from gold? Here is the answer. Platinum metal is very dense.
It is denser than gold!
The implication is that more grams of platinum go into making jewelry products, unlike gold. That explains the price difference.
Also, platinum can produce jewel products with higher metal purity, unlike gold. That is thanks to platinum’s chemical properties. Averagely, rings made from platinum contain between 90 and 95% of pure platinum.
Again, platinum tends to be harder than its gold counterpart. The hardness makes turning the metal into jewelry difficult unless a specialist undertakes the exercise. That also means that jewelers who have the prowess in dealing with platinum are very few.
Thus, platinum jewelry is rare and very costly.
Platinum has a wide range of applicability, unlike most metals. Thus, it is usually in high demand among various sectors. As a point in case, healthcare providers and patients need a huge chunk of platinum.
That is mainly because the element is non-reactive and non-toxic, thus suitable for human body tissues. A lot of cancer patients rely on this element during chemotherapy. It is also used to manufacture cisplatin, a pharmaceutical drug containing platinum that these patients rely on to soothe their pain. (Source)
But it is not just cancer patients benefitting. The element is used to make a wide variety of medical equipment and drugs that helps every other patient in need.
In the automobile industry, platinum is a hotcake. Up to 40% of the platinum produced each year goes into this sector. The platinum is mainly used to manufacture catalytic converters, which reduce the toxicity and level of emissions produced by cars by catalyzing them in a redox reaction.
Platinum is required to manufacture things like hard drives, turbine engines, and glass-making equipment. It is also necessary for the refining of petroleum.
Due to the increased demand, which is met with a supply shortage, it is only natural that the law of economics takes its course. Therefore, there is a subsequent increase in the prices of this rare metal.
The tendency to use precious metals to store wealth and value goes way back. While gold and silver were the main metals used for this purpose, you might want to add platinum to your arsenal.
I cannot overemphasize the fact that the production of platinum is low each year. Due to the rarity of these pieces, it will be wise to look at them as a form of investment. But what do I mean by that?
You have to get yourself some platinum and then store the value over time. Eventually, you will get a chance to resale the platinum at a higher price, thus making a profit.
I know what you are probably thinking. Will the platinum degrade if stored for a long period? The answer is no. Platinum is resistant to corrosion, which means it does not rust away.
Even if you store it for a decade, the metal will not degrade!
As an investor, you need to sell the metal at the prevailing market price whenever you are ready. Since it is a store of value, it tends to be expensive.
Working with platinum is a nerve-wracking task. Unlike silver or gold that can be efficiently mined and isolated in concentrated forms, platinum takes a lot more. Platinum requires more prowess, higher temperatures, and specialized equipment and tools.
It was not until 100 to 150 years ago that effective technology used to process platinum was developed.
Here is a snippet of what the production stage involves.
First, approximately 12 tons of ore will be required to produce an ounce of platinum. The hard task lies in turning that ore into platinum. You have to crush it into small particles then mix it with the necessary chemical reagents and water.
Then, you will collect the foam that forms and dry it up to form a powder. The froth will be heated at very high temperatures to get rid of impurities. Then follows further chemical processes intended to purify the powder further and remove traces of nickel, sulfur, or other impurities. It is then dissolved in hydrochloric acid and nitric acid, purified further, and turned into platinum.
As pointed out before, making jewelry is even harder and requires a separate refining process.
Since the process is more complex than other metals like silver or gold, it contributes to the platinum prices.
How Much Platinum Is In A Catalytic Converter?
The amount of platinum found in catalytic converters varies depending on the model or manufacturer. Averagely, that amount ranges between 3 to 7 grams for any standard converter.
These figures are not constant.
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How To Strip Platinum From A Catalytic Converter
In case you want to remove platinum from a catalytic converter, here is a simple process that you may follow:
Remove the converter from the vehicle altogether.
Pro tip: you may use a socket wrench to loosen the bolts, fastening the vehicle’s converter. If that is time-consuming, use a cutting torch and cut them off.
Remove the catalyst pieces from the converter.
The platinum coating is to be found deep in the converter. You have to remove the catalyst pieces. These are coated with platinum to speed up the rate at which they become white-hot and burn the exhaust gases coming in.
To remove, turn up the length of the converter and pound on one end, so the pieces fall out to the other end.
Remove the platinum
Use your hand or a flat-head screwdriver to pick and peel off the platinum coating from each catalyst piece.
Platinum Scrap Price
Platinum’s $831 per ounce price on the London Fix explains why precious metal investors consider it a top bet today. Its trading price is about equivalent to the median between the modern Fix price of $17.25 per ounce of silver and $1510.80 per ounce of gold.
In addition, merchants are aware that even though platinum is rare than gold and considerably rarer than silver, several types of platinum scraps are widely available. They are aware that if they can get platinum scrap for pennies, which is usually possible, they can send it for recycle and make a handsome profit.
The worth of scrap catalytic converter depends on various factors. For example, those that can be used with diesel engines have a higher value than older ones from previous models of the same vehicles.
Generally, the price ranges between $ 24 and $117.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Much Is Platinum In Catalytic Converters Worth?
The answer is it depends. There is no fixed price for platinum metals. However, after scouring the internet, I discovered some websites that contain price estimates. According to Business Insider, it averagely trades at about $ 1097 per troy ounce.
Which Catalytic Converters Have The Most Platinum?
While this list may not be conclusive, these converters have been identified as the top 3 in platinum content in 2021. The first slot is taken by Ford F250, closely followed by Dodge Ram 2500. In the third place, we have Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe 63.
The catalytic converters cost between $1000 and $3 300 due to the high concentration of platinum.
How Much Do Thieves Get For A Catalytic Converter?
It is not an uncommon occurrence for catalytic converters to be stolen. After all, what thief may not want to make money? Well, thieves can collect an average of $700 for each stolen converter from a scrapyard.
Trucks and SUVs tend to be the primary victims of catalytic converter theft since they are raised off the ground.
Who Pays The Most For Catalytic Converters?
Scrap yards should be your go-to buyers. They tend to pay more attention to the value of the precious metals your converter contains and less attention to the fact that you are simply selling an auto part.
Hi I’m Marshall based in 1478 Doctors Drive Santa Monica, CA. I’m your DIY Car Repairman with more than 5 years experience in automobile repair, a skill I learned from my old man.
I started this blog to share my experience on both simple and technical aspects of your car.