Silver might not be as popular as gold, but it remains one of the most essential and valuable precious metals. Silver can be used practically anywhere, be it for water purification, jewelry, or medical care. The increasing demand for silver is attributed to the many fields this metal can be used. In fact, according to The Silver Institute, the global demand for silver increased by four percent to 1.06 billion ounces in 2022.
One factor contributing to the significant increase is heightened interest in silver bullion coins and silver bars. These are very wealthy assets that can drive up revenue. Being one of the top precious metals, silver has a wide range of uses. Discussed below are some of them.
1. Used in the Car Industry
Did you know that motor vehicles rely on silver as much as they rely on fuel? According to The Silver Institute, over 36 million ounces of silver are used in the car manufacturing industry. There are several reasons why that is the case. For instance, every electrical connection in a car can only be activated by silver-coated contacts.
Whether opening power windows, adjusting power seats or starting the engine, you will need a silver membrane switch to get them going. Wondering what silver used for in-car safety is? This precious metal contributes to automotive safety. Some car manufacturing companies fix silver-ceramic lines into the back of a car and front windshields.
This helps generate heat that melts ice and keeps the glass fog-free. As a result, you will have a clear view of the road, free from distraction. In addition, silver is used in high-performance spark plugs. Consequently, ethylene oxide produces antifreeze, a compound made using silver. This is done through a comprehensive chemical process.
2. Solar Technology
Silver is primarily used in solar technology. Photovoltaic cells, also known as solar cells, convert sunlight into electricity. Silver plays a vital in this conversion. What is silver used for in solar technology? Well, the silver powder is manually turned into a paste that is then loaded onto a silicon wafer. This is the basic process that leads to the production of solar energy.
When the silicon is exposed to light, electrons are set free, and silver stores electricity in batteries for later use or carries it for immediate use. Silver is the world’s best conductor, making it an ideal electricity carrier. The use of silver in commercial solar panels is prevalent, with around 20 grams of it used per unit.
The continued use of silver in solar technology has led to the demand for this precious metal. It is one of the factors that led to the evolution of silver prices in the recent past. The use of silver in solar technology isn’t going to disappear, meaning the demand for silver will always be high! According to a paper published by Kent Business School, the demand for solar panels directly increases the price of silver. This means investing in silver will always return good yields.
3. Medical Industry
Silver is a valuable element in the world of medicine. Silver has by far the most potent antibacterial action of all chemical elements. It also has minor toxicity to animal cells. What makes it vital for the medical industry is that it interrupts the ability of bacteria cells to form chemical bonds. These chemical bonds are essential to the survival of bacteria, meaning silver helps prevent their existence. It is vital to know human cells have thicker walls that can’t be undisturbed.
Another unique attribute of silver is that it releases silver ions when added to water. These ions are vital because they prevent and kill biological growth. This goes a long way in disabling germ metabolism and damaging their membrane functions. Thanks to this unique feature of silver, many bacterial infections are prevented. Silver has been used for this purpose for centuries. For instance, the Ancient Phoenicians found they could keep water fresh by keeping them in silver-coated containers.
Over 3,000 years later, American pioneers prevented flu, colds, and dysentery by putting silver dollars in milk bottles. Today, you will find silver biocides in hospital catheters, water systems, and furniture. The same applies to every room in the operating theater. Besides, silver-copper ionization has been approved as the primary treatment for long-term control of legionella, a problem mostly found in air-cooling systems.
In the late 1800s, silver nitrate was used to cure newborn babies of various eye infections. Doctors found that wounds would heal at a faster rate when silver dressings were used. In addition, the silver medal was used in sutures for deep surgical wounds. This continues today, with modern hospitals applying the same method. For burn victims, silver-embedded bandages have proven to be effective in healing wounds.
4. Photographic Silver Use
Silver also plays a vital role in photography — photography is one of the leading end uses of silver. Silver nitrate, one of the substrates of silver, creates light-sensitive halide crystals that are crucial in photography. Silver is also used in consumer photography, radiography, and graphic arts. All of these practices are found in the industrial and medical inspection.
Some heavy machinery companies also use silver in load photography. The demand for photographic silver hit its peak in 1999, where around 25% of total fabrication needed it. In that year, the film production industry in the US used over 93 million ounces of silver. This resulted in the highest demand for photographic silver.
However, the demand for photographic silver has dived in recent years, with production companies opting for digital photography. There is hope for photographic silver as still-photography used in x-rays continues to apply it. This means photographic silver isn’t perishing any time soon!
It is hard to find an electronic device without silver. If something has an on and off switch, it probably has some silver. Silver is the leading electric conductor, making it ideal for printed circuit boards, switches, and TV screens. Its use in electronic devices makes silver one of the most important precious metals available.
6. Engine Bearings
You have seen large airplanes and helicopters go from one point to another. That wouldn’t be possible without silver! Helicopters and jet engines rely on this precious metal to keep running. Since these engines operate at high temperatures and for long periods, they require robust ball bearings than any other moving machine. This is done through silver electroplating that fortifies the engines. It also significantly reduces the friction between bearings and their respective housings. By doing so, they enable safe engine shutdowns when something goes wrong.
7. Soldering and Brazing
When it comes to brazing and soldering, silver plays an essential role. When metal pieces like faucets, pipes, electrical wires, and ducts are joined, the process is called brazing or soldering. This depends on the amount of heat applied. Without a steady supply of silver, none of these connections could be electrically conductive, leakproof, and sturdy as original materials. Brazing refers to joining metal pieces at temperatures above 600°C, while soldering is joining metal pieces at temperatures below 600°C.