The growing industrial demand for silver and its multiple uses throughout the world was highlighted at the 2013 Silver Industrial Conference, recently held in Washington, D.C. The well-attended conference, which included presentations by global industry leaders, was sponsored by the Silver Institute.
Executives and experts from manufacturing, technical research, mining, refining, product and systems development, and the financial and investment sectors came together to examine the expanding requirements for silver. New and mature silver-based industrial products were discussed, focusing attention on the growing demand for silver, as industry -- spurred on by new research -- turns to increasingly advanced technological products and systems.
Reporting on the silver industrial demand in Europe, Mr. Arnd Gollan of Allgemeine Gold-und Silberscheideanstalt said that in the chemical industry and in electrical engineering, there is an increasing demand for machined silver parts. The trend in European silver usage is also rising in automotive, aerospace, communications, household appliances, and water treatment systems, Mr. Gollan stated.
Silver is a critical element in the production of ethylene oxide (EO), a basic chemical vital in the production of polyester textiles, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, and thousands of other products commonly used in everyday life, according to Mr. Doug Rightler of PCI Xylenes Polyesters Ltd. He detailed how silver enables ethylene to react with oxygen to produce EO, which is a building block in producing polyester. The silver acts as a catalyst and is then recovered and recycled. "As many as 100 million ounces of silver are in existing EO production facilities and that number is expected to be some 40 percent higher by 2020," Mr. Rightler said.
Dr. Heather McGinley, of Dow Microbial Control, stated, "Silver is found in medical applications all over the world. It is inherently antimicrobial and controls hundreds of pathogens, especially in hospital settings." Silver is increasingly integrated into fabrics used as medical gowns and in disposables, to minimize the transmission of pathogens. Silver also gives the hospital garments a longer useful life as they can be washed as many as 50 times and still retain their silver protection.
The conference attendees also heard from experts on silver's use in solar panels and electronics. In addition, there were presentations on supplying the industrial sector from a banking perspective and how silver recycling plays an important role in servicing the needs of industrial end-users.
A panel discussion examined current issues affecting the silver industrial complex, including silver's bright industrial potential in a growing global economy and those uses where silver's unique properties outweigh all other factors.
"Yet," as Mr. Ross Norman of Sharps Pixley reminded the attendees, "with all of its many uses, silver is very much a rare metal. Since the beginning of recorded history, only an estimated 46,870,000 ounces of silver have been mined."