Traditional uses of silver have been in coinage, photography, jewelry, and tableware. Today, with refined techniques of miniaturization, the precious metal‘s properties are being aligned toward better use in the new fields of technological devices. Silver has long been respected for a natural ability to interfere with the chemical bonding of bacterial cells. Besides its high sensitivity to light, silver has the highest properties of electrical and thermal conductivity. These factors serve, today, to give the rare metal definitive use in the new technologies.
Silver maps the circuitry of what was formerly electrical wiring on printed circuit boards (PCBs). This function represented a milestone advance in the miniaturization of electronic components. Coupled with the digital signaling ability of, now, even smaller configurations of transistors, diodes, and other electronic components, this miniaturization has led to an exploding production of cell phones, mp3 music players, and implantable pacemakers, among a vast array of electronic products. Interest in research and development is at the forefront. DuPont, for example, discusses a new technology of “Silver Conductive Inks for PCB” that can overprint even “smaller diameter vias.”
Expressed as “nanotechnology” or “nanosystems,” radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are made with silver based ink. This process uses, sometimes hidden, but electronically identifiable, identification codes, or antennas, on nearly every kind of product imaginable, from laptops to animal tags, or warehouse items at Wal-Mart‘s. Nano-size embedded electronic components created with nano silver, include connection traces, resistors, capacitors, and inductors, antennas, and shielding nets.
The latter points to the role of silver mixed with copper as a shield to electromagnetic or RFI interference occurring from electromagnetic radiation or an electronic device. Plastic or fabric is coated with the silver-copper alloy to reflect EMI from nuclear radiation, as in the case of the workers recently working on the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan.
Silver-oxide batteries are used, in the shape of small discs or buttons, in hearing aids and watches. Silver-zinc batteries have been shown to be effective as rechargeable batteries with more run-time than the lithium-ion butteries, and less volatile. But their technology, along with silver- cadmium batteries, is still evolving. Such is the case with silver used in silicon photovoltaic cells. Thin-film solar cells, coated with a paste of nanoparticle silver, have been found to absorb more photons of light then other processes, thereby increasing the efficiency of the solar cell, but not necessarily lowering the expense.
Boise City, Iowa, intends to have its $45 million, 10-megawatt photovoltaic power plant completed by 2012. Using silver solar cell technology, based on layers of 50 microns thick monocrystalline silicon, the project is intended to furnish energy for up to 15,000 homes. A different kind of energy-producing technology involves using the heat transfer properties of silver to scald nitrate salt to high degrees of heat. The heat is then transferred to drive steam turbines in electric generators. This setup currently works successfully to provide electricity power in Boulder City, Nevada.
All of these “high” technologies involving silver have reached out in specific directions for research and development that are empowered with real and necessary goals. The modern techniques of miniaturization have expanded silver into a fountain of energy.
- Silver Nanoparticles Enable Palladium to Become More Effective Catalyst for Fuel Cells (spectrum.ieee.org)
- Selection Of Right Solar Cell (sunnergyinfo.wordpress.com)
- What are the cost and payment methods of the solar power system (wiki.answers.com)
- Doping of Quantum Dots Promises Both Improved Efficiency and Lower Costs of Solar Cells (spectrum.ieee.org)
- The Most Dangerous Metal: SIlver Falls 4% in Minutes (benzinga.com)