You have likely heard of precious metals, which are rare, naturally-occurring elements with high economic value. But you might not have heard about noble metals, which are arguably quite similar to precious metals in terms of value, composition, and uses. Continue reading to learn some interesting facts about noble metals, including some universally-recognized noble metals and their unique properties.
Definition of a Noble Metal
A noble metal is a metal belonging to a group of metals that are resistant to corrosion and rust (oxidation) in moist climates or conditions. Different to their opposites, base metals, noble metals cannot be affected by acids, nor exposure to moist air. The metal exception is copper, which although is corrosion-resistant, is not considered a noble metal unless you go by the strict definition of a noble metal, which is any metal that has a filled electron d-band.
Types of Noble Metals
As mentioned, copper is often excluded from the recognized list of noble metals, but other metal groups are not, including platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, palladium, iridium, and osmium. Additional metals that are recognized as noble are gold and silver. It is sometimes suggested that rhenium and mercury fit the definition of being a noble metal since they retain anti-corrosive properties like the others. However, the real grouping of noble metals is still cloudy to this day. For instance, anti-corrosive metals like tantalum, titanium, and niobium are not considered noble, even though they match the standard definition of one.
Noble Metal Applications
Because noble metals are resistant to acid attacks, oxidation, and corrosion, they are widely used in several applications all across the world. The most common uses for noble metals include jewelry, coinage, dentistry, surgical instruments, galvanization, electrical workings, and machine parts. They are also sometimes used as catalysts in the automotive and chemical industries for spark plugs, electrodes, and more. As you might surmise, commodities made with noble metals are generally higher in value, and therefore, in price.
Some precious metals are noble, and some are not. Often times, precious metals and noble metals are terms used interchangeably.
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