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Beyond jewelry: exploring the surprising industrial applications of precious metals

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When we think of precious metals, we often associate them with beautiful jewelry. Well, for some people, a safe investment option also comes to mind.

But beyond their beautiful appearances, these metals possess remarkable properties that make them essential in modern technology.

For example, precious metals like gold and silver are crucial in electronics for their excellent conductivity, making them essential for circuitry and connectors. Silver's high thermal conductivity is important for heat dissipation and conductive inks in printed electronics.

In addition, metals such as platinum and palladium (PGMs) serve as catalysts in fuel cells and catalytic converters, helping reduce vehicle emissions and enabling hydrogen production. These metals play a vital role in medical devices, with gold nanoparticles used in imaging and platinum-based drugs for cancer treatment.

The uses of precious metals in industrial applications are limitless. Understanding these industrial applications can help suave investors diversify their portfolios and take advantage of the growing demand for precious metals in today's world.

Let’s dissect some of the key uses of precious metals in industries.

Precious Metals in Electronics

Precious metals play a vital role in the world of electronics. Here are some of the surprising uses of these metals in electronics:

Gold

Gold is renowned for its exceptional conductivity, meaning it allows electricity to flow through it with little resistance. This property makes it perfect for use in electronic components like circuitry and connectors.

For instance, gold is commonly found in the thin wires connecting the various chips and components on a computer's circuit board. Its reliability and resistance to corrosion ensure that electronic devices can function optimally for extended periods.

Additionally, gold's unique properties enable the miniaturization of electronic devices. As our gadgets become smaller and more compact, the need for reliable and efficient conductors like gold becomes even more critical. Without gold's contributions, our smartphones, laptops, and other gadgets wouldn't be as small, sleek, and powerful as they are today.

Silver

Another precious metal that finds extensive use in electronics is silver. Silver boasts high thermal conductivity, meaning it efficiently transfers heat. As electronics continue to become more powerful and energy-intensive, the need for effective heat dissipation also grows. Silver helps dissipate heat away from critical components, preventing overheating and ensuring the long-term reliability of electronic devices.

Silver is also widely used in conductive inks for printed electronics. These inks contain small particles of silver, allowing circuits to be printed on flexible materials like plastic or fabric. This application is particularly relevant for wearable electronics and other innovative products that require flexible circuitry.

Platinum Group Metals (PGMs)

The Platinum Group Metals, which include platinum, palladium, and others, play essential roles in electronics as well. Platinum, for instance, is crucial in fuel cells, which are devices that convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and water through chemical reactions. As the demand for clean energy and fuel cell technology grows, platinum's role becomes increasingly significant.

Palladium is a vital component in catalytic converters, which are emissions control devices found in vehicles. Catalytic converters convert harmful exhaust gases into less harmful emissions, reducing air pollution. Palladium's effectiveness in this process helps improve the environmental impact of automobiles.

Precious Metals in Medicine

Precious metals have found remarkable applications in the field of medicine, contributing to various advancements in diagnostics, treatments, and medical devices. Here are some of the metals used in medicine:

Gold

Gold's unique properties have made it an invaluable asset in various medical applications. One significant use of gold is in medical imaging. Gold nanoparticles, due to their small size and ability to scatter light, have been employed to enhance the contrast in X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This advancement allows healthcare professionals to obtain more detailed and accurate images of tissues and organs, leading to improved diagnostics and better treatment decisions.

In addition to imaging, gold has shown promise in therapeutic applications. Gold-based drugs, known as gold salts, have been used to treat conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. By modulating the immune response, these drugs can alleviate inflammation and provide relief to patients suffering from chronic pain and joint stiffness.

Platinum Group Metals (PGMs)

PMGs have many applications in medicine, which include:

  • Cancer Treatment. Platinum-based drugs have played a vital role in cancer treatment for several decades. Compounds like cisplatin and carboplatin are widely used in chemotherapy to combat various forms of cancer. These drugs are particularly effective against rapidly dividing cancer cells, as they bind to the DNA and disrupt its replication, ultimately leading to cell death. The success of platinum-based chemotherapy has significantly improved cancer survival rates and remains a cornerstone in oncology.
  • Dental. Palladium finds extensive use in dentistry, particularly in dental alloys for restorations. Dental crowns, bridges, and dental implants often contain palladium due to their high strength and corrosion resistance. These characteristics make palladium-based dental restorations durable and long-lasting, ensuring patients' oral health and functionality.

Other Precious Metals Applications in Medicine

  • Silver in Wound Dressings. Silver's antimicrobial properties have made it a popular choice in wound dressings. Silver nanoparticles or ionic silver are incorporated into dressings to prevent infections and promote faster wound healing.
  • Iridium in Cancer Therapy. Iridium-based compounds are being investigated for their potential use in cancer therapy, particularly in brachytherapy. Brachytherapy involves placing a radioactive source near or inside the tumor, delivering a highly targeted dose of radiation to cancer cells while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissues.
  • Copper in Antimicrobial Coatings. Copper has shown promise in creating antimicrobial coatings for medical equipment and surfaces in healthcare facilities. These coatings can help reduce the transmission of pathogens and prevent healthcare-associated infections.

Precious Metals in Renewable Energy

Precious metals play a crucial role in the advancement of renewable energy technologies, enabling cleaner and more sustainable power generation.

Here are some of the uses:

Silver in Photovoltaics

Solar panels are essential for harnessing energy from sunlight and converting it into electricity. Silver's remarkable electrical conductivity makes it an ideal material for creating efficient electrical contacts within solar cells. This ensures that the generated electricity can be effectively transferred from the solar cells to the power grid for use in homes, businesses, and industries. Silver's reflective properties are also used to enhance the absorption of sunlight within the solar panel.

Additionally, silver paste is widely used in the production of solar panels. This paste is applied to the surface of the solar cells, forming the electrical connections that allow electrons to flow smoothly within the panel. Silver's ability to adhere well to different materials, such as silicon, is a significant advantage in the manufacturing process, ensuring the panels are reliable and durable.

Ruthenium in Water-Splitting for Green Hydrogen Production

Hydrogen, generated by splitting water through electrolysis, is gaining popularity as a clean energy carrier. And ruthenium is quickly gaining popularity as a catalyst in this process.

Ruthenium-based catalysts facilitate the water-splitting process by reducing the energy required for the reaction to occur. This lowers the overall cost of producing hydrogen and increases the efficiency of the electrolysis process. Green hydrogen holds immense promise for storing renewable energy and powering various applications, such as fuel cells and industrial processes.

How Precious Metals can Benefit your Investment Portfolio

The expanding industrial applications of precious metals have led to increased demand across various sectors. As technology, renewable energy, and medical industries continue to grow, so does the need for these metals. Investing in precious metals allows you to capitalize on the ever-evolving demand from these industries, potentially providing steady returns over the long term.

For example, Gold, silver, and platinum group metals (PGMs) are vital components in the electronics industry. As our reliance on electronic devices and technology increases, so does the demand for these metals. In fact, a report by Oxford Economics shows that about 50% of silver demand today comes from industrial applications.

This means that investing in precious metals is a strategic move to benefit your portfolio and align with the demands of the changing world economy. Even world superpowers are not being left behind. For example, China bought an additional 18 tons of gold in March and then another 23 tons in July, amount to 126 tons of gold for 2023 and bringing its total gold collection to about 2,136 Tons.

Precious metals can act as a stabilizing force in your investment portfolio. They often exhibit low correlations with traditional financial assets like stocks and bonds. Therefore, during times of market volatility, precious metals can help reduce the overall portfolio volatility and provide a level of protection.

Also, remember that security is crucial when managing your investment portfolio. One of the ways to secure your investment online is to use digital signatures for signing digital contracts instead of e-signatures because they are far more secure.

Conclusion

Precious metals possess immense value and potential beyond traditional uses. These metals, such as gold, silver, and platinum group metals, are vital components in modern industries, ranging from electronics and technology to medicine and renewable energy. Their unique properties, such as excellent conductivity and catalytic capabilities, make them indispensable in these sectors, driving demand and presenting exciting investment opportunities.

As an investor, it's crucial to recognize the strategic importance of precious metals in building a strong and resilient portfolio. Investing in precious metals can help safeguard your investments and contribute to a sustainable future. As the world embraces innovation and sustainability, precious metals play a leading role, making them essential for any forward-thinking investor.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.