If we define status in terms of precious metals and elements, platinum nestles in second place below diamond, but above gold, silver and bronze.
Just a few hundred tonnes are mined each year from naturally occurring sources and as a by-product of nickel and copper processing.
Most of it comes out of Africa and its rarity, combined with its uses, make it precious and sought after by both investors and industry.
Platinum has a high resistance to corrosion even at high temperatures. It allows the transmission of electric current and is used in many products including pacemakers, solar cells, electrodes, drugs, oxygen sensors, spark plugs.
It is also a valuable catalyst and around half of platinum’s annual production is used to control vehicle emissions in catalytic converters.
Demand for platinum is high and during the economic meltdown in 2008, its value rose to nearly £50 per gram (US$70 per gram).
A team of chemical engineering researchers have discovered a breakthrough in catalytic converter research through perseverance. This research will help manufactures of cars reduce the need for the use of expensive platinum in catalytic converters.
Eric Peterson, a graduate student in Nanoscience and Microsystems Engineering at the University of New Mexico, began this discovery when he refused to accept that the measurements he recorded using x-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) were incorrect.
Professor of chemical and biological engineering, Abhaya Datye, worked with Eric on this project to improve our ability to measure the sizes of nanoparticles, focusing on those smaller than one nanometre (one billionth of a metre).