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Lift-Off with Platinum

Platinum-based applications are ushering in a new technological chapter as the aviation industry transitions to net zero

Picture credit: © Airbus S.A.S. - photo by A. Doumenjou / Master Films

We all know platinum's unique qualities create beautiful, durable jewelry; however, this remarkable metal’s physical and chemical properties make it invaluable to a whole host of other applications that have a lasting, positive impact on our world. It is also an investment asset.

PGI USA is excited to share platinum’s other stories with you through its series, ‘Platinum Beyond the Bench’, shining a light on platinum’s value and use beyond the realm of jewelry and providing a broader context for appreciating this most precious of metals.

Information for ‘Platinum Beyond the Bench’ is provided by the World Platinum Investment Council - WPIC®.

Seventy years ago, aviation history was made when the world’s first passenger jet liner completed its maiden flight from London to Johannesburg, marking the beginning of the jet age and revolutionizing travel - shortening journey times for passengers.

Coincidentally, South Africa is the center of the global platinum group metals mining industry - over 80 per cent of the world’s reserves of platinum are located there. Today, the aviation sector is turning to platinum, renowned for its catalytic properties, as it innovates once again to meet the challenges of the energy transition.

For example, ZeroAvia, a UK government-funded pioneer of zero-emissions aviation solutions, is developing and testing proton exchange membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cells as part of its powertrain development. Equipped with a platinum catalyst, PEM fuel cells are powered by hydrogen and produce electricity and heat with no emissions other than water. PEM fuel cells can be combined to form fuel cell stacks, creating systems that are compact, modular and scalable, able to provide the energy needed to power an aircraft.

PEM technology is not only being applied to build zero-emissions aircraft; it is also being used to develop sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs), including green hydrogen, which will further support the move to sustainable air travel. Earlier this year, Airbus successfully performed the first flight of an A380 powered solely by 100 per cent SAF.

Platinum Demand Impact

The development of PEM technologies throughout the aviation sector has a wider significance in terms of platinum demand, as the eco-systems and infrastructure created as a result encourage the more widespread adoption of platinum-based PEM technologies in other parts of the economy.

It supports the growth of the fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) market, which will, in time, create platinum demand equalling that of current automotive demand - possibly as early as 2033. This could add over three million ounces to annual automotive platinum demand in eleven years.

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