Ninety-five percent of our current silver production is used to make jewelry and silverware, to support the art of photography, and to further manufacturing and industry. Although digital imaging is becoming increasingly popular, tens of millions of ounces of silver are still being consumed by photography every year. Silver can be recycled from used photographic materials, including old film and chemicals. Due to its superior properties, silver has many industrial uses, and more are being discovered all the time.
Silver does not react easily with other substances, which makes it a good industrial catalyst. It is commonly used to make industrial alcohols and solvents, synthetic fibers, and washing detergents. It is critical to the manufacture of agricultural fertilizers and fungicides.
Silver iodide has also been used to seed clouds to produce rain. Given perfect conditions, an ounce of silver iodide can produce as much as three million gallons of rainwater. In the near future, scientists may be able to use a similar technique to limit the destruction of powerful hurricanes.
Silver is the world’s best conductor of heat and electricity. It also resists corrosion. These qualities make it a valuable component for the switches and contacts in electrical appliances such as computers, televisions, radios, refrigerators, washing machines, and calculators.
Silver is also used in batteries. Electrical batteries made with silver are used in cameras, hearing aids, watches, submarines and satellites. A silver-caesium alloy has also been used to develop solar, or photoelectric, cells capable of converting sunlight into electricity.
Silver has many medical applications. Silver kills bacteria by absorbing the oxygen they need to survive. Surgical instruments are made from silver and its alloys. Silver wire is used to bind broken bones and a silver amalgam can be used to fill cavities in teeth.
Silver has long been used for purifying water. In 1902, the Maharaja of Jaipur, commissioned an enormous pair of silver water jugs for his palace. Each weighed 10,408 troy oz (242.7 g), and stood 63 inches (160 cm) tall, which made them the largest silver objects ever made. Even the astronauts use a silver-based water purifier to ensure the safety of their water supply in space.
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