In addition to its beauty and financial desirability, silver has a critical role to play in many industries.
It has inherently unique elemental properties that cannot be duplicated by manmade elements.
In conditions where high heat and friction are present, or electricity needs to be conducted, silver really shines. Silver is so ubiquitous in today’s electronic devices that you’d be hard pressed to find a single one that doesn’t use silver somewhere. If you are turning on a light or a tablet, silver is probably involved.
SILVER USE IN BATTERIES
Compared to lead-acid batteries, batteries made of silver oxide and zinc last twice as long. Silver also has a high resistance to heat, making it ideal for harsh conditions such as inside oil wells, where silver batteries are used.
Silver oxide batteries have many advantages over older-style batteries, though they can carry a higher cost. They have a power-to-weight ratio that far outstrips lead-oxide.
As environmental health standards evolve, we expect silver oxide and silver zinc batteries to increasingly replace lithium ion batteries in smartphones and laptops. Silver zinc batteries in particular are favored, as they has water-based chemistry and contain nothing flammable and no lithium.
SILVER USE IN CARS
An incredible 36 million ounces of silver are used every year in cars, for a wide range of uses. Silver coated contacts are found everywhere electricity is used, such as window buttons, closing a power door and even starting the engine.
If you’ve ever wondered what the rear window defroster on your car is made of, here is the answer: silver ceramic. These lines are carefully fired into the rear window when manufactured. These lines conduct heat to clear the windows of ice and snow without harming the glass encasing it.
SILVER USE IN ENGINES
One tiny but essential use for silver is in silver-coated ball bearings, used in critical high-temperature conditions such as jet engines. Imagine a white hot metal engine turning thousands of revolutions over hours and hours without fail, and you’ll begin to appreciate the strength of the material.
Steel ball bearings, when electroplated with silver, are arguably the most durable, strong bearings made today. A thin layer of silver is placed between the bearing and its housing to improve performance and longevity.
These bearings are so reliable, in fact, that even if an engine with silver-coated bearing is hit with complete oil pump failure, it can still shut down safely without serious damage.
SILVER USE IN ELECTRONIC DEVICES
Silver is an excellent conductor of electricity and is found on most printed circuit boards.
Most people don’t think twice about the silver membrane switches that they use every step of their day, but if you used a coffee maker, typed a code into an ATM or tapped a remote control, you probably employed silver in the process. Silver membrane switches are very reliable under heavy use.
Silver contacts are used in a variety of electrical applications, including control panels and the delicate membrane switch panels seen in items as mundane as elevator buttons and vital as railway traffic controls. The distribution of electricity would be impossible without the silver found in circuit breakers and switches.
If you drive to work and use a RFID tag to prepay your tolls, silver helped make it happen. Silver based inks are use to make radio frequency identification antennas, found in toll devices, theft protection and inventory control.
SILVER USE IN DISPLAY PANELS
Today’s modern plasma display panels are made with silver, as are CDs and DVDs.
SILVER USE IN INSULATION
More than 700 tons of silver are used every year to make a variety of insulating materials, such as thermal and electrical wall insulation, insulating fabrics and more.
SILVER USE IN ALTERNATIVE ENERGY
Over 100 million ounces of silver are used in photovoltaic power systems every year, providing a renewable source of energy with no pollution involved. The silver is used in the form of a paste and used in 90% of all crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells. These are the most common type of solar cells.