Illustrious past, bright future for silver
A miraculous metal with a growing range of industrial uses Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – January 15, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 5:05am
When you think of silver, you probably think of coins, jewelry and grandma's special silverware. For over five thousand years, that has been the primary use of silver.
Silver was one of the first metals ever mined by man, though it is rarely found in native form, it is often a byproduct of copper smelting. Being shiny, soft and malleable, it was ideal for hammering out into thin strips that could be used in decoration.
Silver has one drawback, it oxidizes and tarnishes. Silver reacts to oxygen on a molecular level and can create a thin barrier to its natural shine which means, unlike gold, needs constant attention to maintain its aesthetics nature.
So, silver stayed in the realm of beauty and value for thousands of years. With the onslaught of the Industrial Revolution, people started finding new applications for the world around them. Silver also found a new use in the processing of photography.
Thanks to silver, the world was captured as it truly was, or at least its black and white version.
Scientist continued to study silver's properties and discovered that it has the best heat and electrical conductivity of any other metal. Silver then became the backbone for the Electronic and Informational Revolutions that we are experiencing now.
Without the low cost of silver, our phones, tablets, computers, cars and even our UHD televisions would either be nonexistent, or extremely expensive.
Silver impacts your everyday life, and you may not even be aware of it.
Did you shower today? When you wipe the steam off of the mirror, it is likely that your mirror has a thin layer of silver on the back to give you that shiny reflection. Many deodorants are starting to utilize silver to help kill bacteria that causes you to smell.
How does that work? Remember silver's one drawback, the bane of Victorian Era butlers? The reason silver oxidizes is the isotopes will grab onto oxygen. This strips oxygen from bacteria and they die. No bacteria, no funky smells.
There has also been success in the medical field to help prevent the spread of bacteria through clothing, contact with bandages and medical devices. It has also been successful in treating and eliminating strains of drug resistant bacteria such as MRSA.
Brown bag your lunch? Many companies are starting to make storage and cooking products with nano silver in an effort to make food last longer and prevent the growth of bacteria.
The Apollo Space Missions used silver ions to maintain their drinking water purity. That same technology is used in the filtration systems in many large buildings, especially hospitals. You can also find this technology being used to service areas where water treatment plants do not exist or for people who don't want the treatment chemicals in their water.
The future for silver use is looking ever brighter. With the need of cheap, renewable energy, silver is likely to be the leader there too. Photovoltaic technologies needed to enhance solar energy gathering is found in not only the reflective properties of silver, but its exceptional heat and electrical conductivity as well.
Silver is the miracle metal that, despite its high demand, is proving to be affordable across a wide range of industries and uses.