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Silver - Set for A Shiny Future?

In the opinion of some, silver has become a troublesome investment metal since the decline of the photographic industry. It is doubted that the new industrial applications are, or will be, of equal relevance to sustain the metal’s price and relevance. But is this really true? Tech Metals Insider spoke Mike DiRienzo, executive director of The Silver Institute, to find out.

 “The future of silver in industrial applications is actually quite bright”, explained DiRienzo. “In fact, if you compare developments since 2003, when the photographic silver market was still at a high, with 2012 you will see that – while the market for photographic silver declined from 193 million ounces to 57.8, the market for industrial uses went up from 368 milion ounces to 465 million ounces. At the same time, the annual average silver price went up from $US 4.87 / oz to $US 31.15 / oz, its second highest average. So, regardless of what happened to photographic silver, the silver price has increased, and industrial applications have increased.”

Will the market for photographic silver disappear completely? “Silver is still being used in photography in x-ray, in film, and in developing countries. It is also used in single use cameras. There will always be a use for silver in photography”, said DiRienzo.

As to the new applications, “The overall properties of silver provide for some very unique and neat applications in industry”, he added. “Health and medical, electronics and communication, silver batteries, conductors and computers, handhelds and tablets are all contributors. Almost every device in your kitchen or automobile has silver in it.”

Other markets with potential for silver include photovoltaics, which grew from 5 million ounces annual use in 2004 to 50 million ounces last year; and biocides. Silver is proven to eliminate odors, bacteria, mildew and mold without harming humans or the environment. The global hygiene / biocide market is worth US$ 2 billion annually. Silver is in textiles, in sporting equipment, in socks and other athletic wear, and shoes.

“Dow Microbial Control’s ‘Silvador’ is paving the way for others to incorporate silver in their product lines”, DiRienza said. “Corning Glass is incorporating silver in its ‘Gorilla Glass’ for mobile phones and tablets. These devices are hosts to germs on the surfaces, and silver eliminates them.

Silver in nanotechnology is a huge emerging industry. The Silver Institute has been working with regulators to demonstrate that silver – in any form – is safe.

Ethylene oxide is a chemical found in everyday life products, including polyester and textile fibers. It is a market of US$ 100 million today, expected to approach US$ 140M by 2020.
50 million ounces of silver annually are in automobiles today already. Consumers are demanding safety features such as cameras or extra airbags that were once only available in high end luxury vehicles, even on a 19-20,000 dollar car. All of these are operated through electronics. And on each contact, you find silver.”

A side effect of these new applications is that the recycling of silver in such small per-unit amounts gets much harder, and some of it is irrecoverable. In the long run, and as these markets grow, this is likely to take some industrial silver off the market.

Is silver set for a shiny future? DiRienzo and The Silver Institute certainly are convinced.

By Bodo Albrecht
tminsider@eniqma.com

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect those of Kitco Metals Inc. The author has made every effort to ensure accuracy of information provided; however, neither Kitco Metals Inc. nor the author can guarantee such accuracy. This article is strictly for informational purposes only. It is not a solicitation to make any exchange in precious metal products, commodities, securities or other financial instruments. Kitco Metals Inc. and the author of this article do not accept culpability for losses and/ or damages arising from the use of this publication.
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