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Posted: January 7, 2008

Nanotechnology Could Hurt Platinum Industry

(Nanowerk News) The jury is still out as to whether platinum demand could be hurt by new technology that promises to reduce the amount of platinum and palladium used in automotive catalysts by between 70% and 90%.
Japan’s Mazda Motor Corporation has confirmed it has developed a world-first catalyst for cars that uses nanotechnology to create a catalyst material structure that substantially reduces the amount of precious metals required, thereby reducing costs.
Platinum rallied to an all-time high of $1553 an ounce on Wednesday and was trading at $1547 on Friday afternoon.
The auto catalyst sector continues to dominate platinum usage, and a cutting of its use by automotive manufacturers threatens to reduce demand, which could have a knock-on impact on the feverish expansion plans of the world’s largest producers including Anglo Platinum and Impala Platinum.
Automotive manufacturers have already been substituting platinum’s cheaper sister palladium in petrol vehicles as they seek to cut input costs.
The automotive industry uses platinum in cars’ and trucks’ catalytic converters to clean up exhaust fumes and limit emissions.
In its Platinum Group Metals Yearbook 2007, the CPM Group said sales and production of vehicles worldwide have been in stronger demand.
Rapidly industrialising nations such as China and India are also seeing increasing demand for vehicles, which in turn pushes the demand for the catalyst metal even higher.
Platinum use in auto catalysts has doubled in the past decade, from 2-million ounces in 1997 to 4-million ounces in 2006.
Precious metals analysts Johnson Matthey said in its Platinum 2007 Interim Review, which was released in November last year, that platinum use in auto catalysts was forecast to rise by 2.3% to 4.24-million ounces in 2007 as global light-duty vehicle production exceeds 70-million units for the first time. That means autocatalyst demand will represent 61.2% of total global demand of 6.93-million ounces in 2007.
In the meantime, automotive manufacturers look set to find ways to further reduce the amount of the precious white metal in catalysts.
Just last month the World Gold Council said it had entered into an agreement with Nanostellar, a leading-edge developer of emission control technologies, to develop and introduce gold as a key element in diesel exhaust catalyst manufacture.
And while the gold price grew by 31.5% in 2007, at its new all-time high of $866.60 an ounce on Thursday, it is still 44percent cheaper than platinum.
Source: The Times
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