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Silver is widely used due to its intrinsic properties. This is also the reason behind the high industrial demand for silver in multiple sectors such as medicine, silver jewellery, electronics, etc. It is believed that half of the silver found goes into industrial processes, which also makes this metal one of the most traded metals across the globe.
Apart from mining, this metal is also generated as a by-product. When metals like copper, zinc, lead, and gold are being produced, silver is made. Of course, this is not the only way of making silver. Approximately 25% of silver in the world is acquired through mining processes. The remaining 75% comes from the by-products of other methods.
Due to its importance in the industrial sector, silver’s demand has only grown in recent years. Although it is less valuable as compared to gold, experts believe that this metal holds high industrial potential and can offer higher returns in the future.
Silver can be found everywhere, but its primary demand is often found in industrial usage and silver jewellery. From electronic devices to automobile components, silver is utilised in multiple industry sectors. Its demand has risen over the years, and now, silver is used in electrical equipment’s, aerospace technology, cars, etc.
Here’s how silver is used to make electronics, silver jewellery, mirrors, medicines, and other such commodities.
One of the prime uses of silver is photography, which is achieved by utilising silver nitrate to make halide crystals that are light sensitive. This particular industrial usage of silver includes graphic arts, photography, and radiography or X-rays. Radiography through silver is also beneficial in industrial heavy machine inspection as well as medicine.
The demand for photographic silver emerged in the 1700s when the primary use of this metal was seen in silver jewellery. Since then, the demand skyrocketed, and approximately 25% of the production of silver went to this sector by the year 1999. The US market alone accounted for the use of more than 93 million silver ounces in 1999. This amounted to one ounce per every ten sold across the globe.
However, with time and popularity of digital pictures, the demand of silver reduced to below 20% and in the year 2013, it decreased to merely 9%. But, even after this decrease in demand, the X-ray related silver photography is still a big silver consumer.
Silver is a sensitive metal, a property which is well received in the solar energy and photovoltaic industry. By using this metal for conductive ink, sunlight can be transformed into electricity through the photovoltaic cells.
We first saw the use of silver in the photovoltaic industry in 2000. This was the year after the photographic use of silver was experiencing a considerable decline. The photovoltaic sector was using approximately 1 million ounces of silver this year. This usage was much less than the usage of the electronics industry. However, by the year 2008, the photovoltaic sector’s usage of silver increased to 19 million ounces each year. This is because, by that time, a lot of government organisations across the globe were supporting these efforts.
But the rise in demand for silver also increased the prices; almost to a double in 2011. This encouraged manufacturers to make systems and technology which can sustain on lower amounts of silver. In a way, it has only improved the resource efficiency of the industry. The photovoltaic units can now run on 80% less silver and produce the same amount of power generated via sunlight.
Thus, the solar panel and photovoltaic cells manufacturing have increased, but the demand for silver has decreased in the past few years.
Nevertheless, silver is still useful in making photovoltaic cells and solar panels.
We have multiple chemicals that have antibacterial properties. However, silver is the most powerful with the least toxicity when it comes to animal cells. The other similar but highly expensive metals interrupt bacteria’s ability to create bonds which make their survival more difficult. Silver performs the same functions at a cost-effective rate.
If silver metal is added to water, it creates silver ions, which prevent and kill the germ growth and interfere with their membrane functions. These properties of silver are being used for medicinal purposes for several years now.
Ancient medicine experts had discovered that liquids, including water, could be saved for longer durations if stored in silver-coated utensils. Later, it was found that cold, dysentery and even the flu can be prevented if silver dollars are placed in milk. Due to these discoveries, silver biocides are now found in water systems, furniture, catheters, and other tools of the operation theatre in the hospitals.
Silver nitrate is another silver-related compound which can cure eye infections in new-borns and heal wounds faster than usual. This metal is also actively utilised in sutures to treat ulcers. This application is even seen today in the form of silver bandages which are widely used for burn victims to heal their open wounds.
The most traditional usage of this metal is found in silver jewellery. The lustre, malleability, and reflectivity of silver make it an attractive choice for silver jewellery. Since the metal is soft, silver jewellery is prepared by forming an alloy with other hard metals.
Silver jewellery doesn’t suffer corrosion and oxidation. Any tarnish can also be removed with a polish, making silver a metal for a lifetime.
Other than silver jewellery, this metal is also used in making kitchenware, cutlery, and plates.
Silver has multiple industrial applications. From silver jewellery to medicine, this metal is extremely precious. Hence, it is safe to say that silver will prove to be a beneficial investment.
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