Industrial Uses of Silver

Silver in warehouse

Along with being prized for its gleaming beauty, silver holds an invaluable role in a number of modern industries. As a metal, it holds an unparalleled degree of electroconductivity, making it ideally – and uniquely – suited to certain applications.

Globally speaking, more than 33% of all silver produced is used by the electronics industry. That effectively means that if you have an electronic device, it’s got silver in it – and helps illustrate exactly how much demand there is surrounding this precious metal.

Of course, electronics aren’t the only place we can expect to see silver. Read on to learn more.

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Electronics

Silver’s exceptional electroconductivity means it enables electrons to flow between one part of an electronic device to another with minimal resistance. That means manufacturers who implement silver are creating devices that save energy and act faster than devices that don’t use it.

In practice, silver goes into microchips, printed circuit boards, sensors, semiconductors, and electrical contacts – which virtually encompasses each level of the electrical system for many devices. Silver is an essential component in LED screens, and will play a similar role in flexible screens as those become more mass produced.

New applications for silver in the electronics sector are being developed all the time. At the microscopic level, silver is being used in conductive inks to print miniature electronic circuits. Similarly, nanoscopic silver inks can be printed onto flexible and lightweight materials, granting a new level of electronic mobility.

As technology gets increasingly smaller but is still expected to operate efficiently, silver’s importance (as the metal with the highest level of electroconductivity) will only grow.

Solar Energy

Another growing field that sees silver at the forefront in its application is solar energy. Photovoltaic cells – being the cells that turn solar energy into electricity – rely on silver-based inks for their conductivity. Without the silver paste or ink in place, they simply wouldn’t function.

The demand for solar energy is continually rising, leading to approximately 40% annual growth in the number of solar panel installations around the world in 2022 and 2023. With that in mind, and considering silver’s role in enabling the technology to function, we can see there will be no slowing of demand for silver on this front, either.

Automotive

Silver has played a crucial role in the modern automotive industry, in part through its synergistic functionality with electronics (in fact, silver contacts enable every electrical action in a modern vehicle). That’s not the only way that silver is used in automotive manufacturing, however, particularly not lately.

Hybrid vehicles use between 18 to 34 grams and battery electric vehicles use up to 50 grams per car. As the auto industry goes more green, silver will be a bigger part of the scene.

Photography

In early photography, silver provided an important function through its high reflectivity and sensitivity. Negatives relied on silver iodine to serve as a light sensitive material, while silver nitrate helped form the paper prints. 

Photography has obviously changed a lot since then, but silver’s particular light-based properties have not. Silver-based films are a popular medium for many commercial production companies due to their light-capturing ability, and, in developing countries, act as a component in inexpensive X-rays.

The demand for silver-based photography is on the rise, leading to an increase in demand for silver from this sector. 

Brazing and Soldering

There’s a lot to be said for keeping it together – and that’s exactly what silver does, serving as the metal glue that keeps any number of industries running. There’s no substitute for creating leak-resistant and corrosion-resistant bonds between metallic parts, giving silver solder a place in virtually every factory. Silver-brazing alloys, meanwhile, can be used for joining steel, copper, and nickel together, making them suitable for everything from the aerospace industry to air conditioning and refrigeration purposes.