The Unknown Children of the Precious Metals Family

At the beginning of this series we introduced you to precious metalsrare earth elements and specialty metals to describe and define “technology metals.” Precious metals in particular are familiar to most readers: eight metals grouped into gold, silver and the so-called platinum group metals (platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, rhenium and osmium).

However, it is a little known fact that there are more than six platinum group metals in existence, and hence more precious metals. According to the periodic table of elements, three more metals (Hassium, Meitnerium and Darmstadtium) are part of the PGM family.

The three metals were all discovered by the same group of researchers around Peter Armbruster and Gottfried Muenzenberg of the Institute of Heavy Ion Research (“Gesellschaft fuer Schwerionenforschung) of Darmstadt, Germany.

Hassium (Hs) and Darmstadtium (Ds) are direct references to the location of discovery whereas Meitnerium (Mt) is a reference to Lise Meitner, a physicist from Austria. All three metals were produced synthetically and are unlikely to exist in natural form on our planet. They are expected to have similar properties as their more famous analogs osmium, iridium and platinum but all of them are in stages of experimental research at this time.

The fact that they are radioactive and have a rather short half-life would further indicate that they may have limited practicality in industrial application, unless they can be converted to stable alloys or compounds in the future.

So the only question remains: could we see them enter the arena of high tech applications one day?

Bodo Albrecht,
tminsider@eniqma.com