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Chemists looking for ways to reduce uses of platinum(October 24, 2012) - The storied 'science' of alchemy was once all the rage because it was about finding a way to convert lead into gold, but a modern day chemist is now pursuing ways to limit uses of platinum by chemically emulating its properties in order to save the world huge sums of money. Not yet 40 years old, Princeton University's Dr. Paul Chirik is working to find a way to help manufacturers avoid having to pay high platinum prices for the small amounts of the element they need in order to produce a wide range of goods. According to a recent article by Hillary Rosner of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Chirik believes that scientists should find a way to preserve Earth's supplies of precious metals by properly emulating their traits that industrial uses require. The noted chemistry professor states that while gold, platinum and other metals are nowhere near vanishing, being able to conserve them could be a smart idea over the long term. By discovering how to make iron function the way platinum does, Chirik has helped push his agenda to replace the uses of platinum with cheaper, more abundant materials that can do the same things. Platinum prices being so high can affect product prices on popular consumer goods such as denim jeans, glue and cosmetic products. Even though only trace levels of precious metals end up used in most every day products, the ability to conserve scarce metals would be a positive thing. Experts point out that change in the world's geopolitical arrangements or environmental devastation in areas where rare metals are mined could cause prices to skyrocket. Having cheaper, more reliable alternatives would then be a very intelligent solution. Chirik made a point of telling the press that while a material such as lithium might seem as if it's available in vast quantities, if lithium batteries began to be placed in all cars around the globe, the picture would change dramatically. He believes that it is the job of chemists to stay ahead of the times they live in and continue to develop new ways of dealing with potential problems before they have a chance to occur. While his focus is not just on valuable metals like gold, platinum or silver, investors should take note of how his work could affect the industrial uses of these metals. In relation to just how rapidly a new use for a material can change that material's value on the market, Dr. Chirik noted, "The iPad has completely changed the price of cobalt so something that once was garbage is now valuable." The reason for this skyrocketing in cobalt's value is tied to the fact that the special batteries used in Apple's tablet computers require substantial quantities of cobalt, a material also used in the making of hard drives. The specific qualities of gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium make them very attractive to manufacturers of digital products; this is why investors should keep an eye on the way the metals they invest in are being used today. Is Chirik's work likely to alter the value of precious metals? While it's not likely, this is the kind of news those invested in precious metals should keep up to date on so they can better manage their own portfolios.
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