Why Silver Is Essential For A Prosperous and High Tech Future
In the complex world economy, very few things are as versatile and exciting as silver. It has a rich history as a valuable metal, and today, it plays a vital role in high-tech industries, reports Cheryl Jones.
Silver’s story is one of change and progress. In recent years, two critical reports in particular show how silver is changing: the metal’s essential role in making better cars and its close connection with cleaner energy. The year 2021 witnessed a notable convergence of the automotive and silver industries as car manufacturers began to harness the remarkable properties of silver to fuel technological leaps.
This shift marked a new era of innovation and a significant increase in the demand for silver. According to The Silver Institute, By 2025, projections indicate that the automotive sector could absorb a staggering 90 million ounces (Moz) of silver annually. This surge in demand is expected to rival the silver consumption forecasted for the photovoltaic industry, a sector currently at the forefront of global industrial silver demand.
The significance of silver’s role in the automotive domain is illuminated by a groundbreaking report released by The Silver Institute. The report, titled Silver’s Growing Role in the Automotive Industry, underscores silver’s crucial role in vehicle electrical control units. These units oversee many functions, including infotainment systems, navigation, electric power steering, and pivotal safety features like airbag deployment and automatic braking systems. Silver’s unparalleled electrical conductivity, oxidation resistance, and durability under harsh conditions render it an optimal choice for these applications.
NAVIGATING HYBRID AND ELECTRIC VEHICLES
The evolution of vehicle technologies further emphasises the integral role of silver. While the average vehicle silver loadings for internal combustion engine (ICE) light vehicles currently range from 15 to 28 grams (g), this figure has exhibited a consistent upward trajectory over the past few decades. Hybrid cars take silver utilisation a step further, with silver use averaging around 18 to 34g per light vehicle.
The shift towards battery electric vehicles (BEVs) demands even more silver, with consumption estimated at 25 to 50g per vehicle. As the automotive industry embarks on the road to autonomous driving, the complexity of cars is set to escalate, potentially catalysing higher silver consumption.
Silver’s application extends beyond vehicle components themselves. It extends into ancillary services, including the rapid expansion of charging stations and points for electric vehicles. The global momentum behind BEVs is reinforced by policies that foster the growth of the BEV industry. Silver’s demand trajectory remains poised for significant growth at every phase of the automotive transition – from ICE vehicles to hybrid models, BEVs, and autonomous driving.
THE ROLE OF SILVER IN GREEN ENERGY
Parallel to its automotive journey, silver is at the focal point of the green energy revolution. The photovoltaic sector, which harnesses solar energy through solar panels, has become a cornerstone of silver demand. The rise of electric vehicles further amplifies silver’s role in the realm of green energy. With predictions suggesting a drastic decline in internal combustion vehicle sales by 2030, the transition to electric alternatives is in full swing. Silver’s importance in EVs, spanning battery production to electrical components, places it at the heart of the sustainable transportation transformation.
FIRST TELLURIUM: PIONEERING NEXT-GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES
Amidst these transformative shifts, the emergence of First Tellurium assumes significance. The company’s strategic focus on tellurium, a critical component in semiconductor manufacturing, lithium-ion batteries, and solar cell production, aligns seamlessly with the growing demand for next-generation energy solutions. Their projects, such as the Deer Horn property in British Columbia, represent a vital intersection of silver and emerging technologies. Moreover, the Klondike property in Colorado, renowned for its high-grade tellurium reserves, adds another layer of strategic value to its endeavours.
VERSATILE USES OF SILVER
As one of the most versatile and indispensable precious metals, silver’s influence extends far beyond its monetary and aesthetic value. Its remarkable properties have positioned it as a fundamental element in many industries, surprising even the most informed observers with its unexpected and widespread applications. Let’s journey to uncover some of the intriguing and lesser-known places where silver leaves its mark.
AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY - Silver’s role in the automotive industry transcends its shimmering exterior. With over 36 million ounces of silver consumed annually in automobile manufacturing, its impact on vehicles is substantial and diverse. Every electrical connection within modern cars relies on silver-coated contacts, ensuring seamless operation. Moreover, the defrosting lines on rear windows, which prevent ice buildup and fogging, are created using silver-ceramic lines that generate heat.
SOLAR CELLS - In the quest for renewable energy, silver’s contribution is undeniable. The production of solar cells relies on turning silver powder into a paste, which is then applied to silicon wafers. Silver carries the liberated electrons to generate electricity when sunlight strikes the silicon. As the demand for solar panels surges, so does the need for silver, illustrating its pivotal role in the transition to cleaner energy sources. It is practically impossible to ‘go green’, without ‘going silver’ first! In a research article published by the University of New South Wales it was found that at the current pace of photovoltaic manufacturing with all of the climate change goals that have been set, photovoltaics may consume 85-98% of existing silver reserves over the coming decades.
ELECTRONICS INDUSTRY - Step into the world of electronics, and silver takes center stage once more. Its exceptional electrical conductivity makes it a perfect fit for numerous electronic devices, from TV screens, Apple Macbooks, iPads and switches to printed circuit boards. Silver’s participation in this realm is a testament to its ability to enhance performance and efficiency across a spectrum of technological innovations.
CONNECTIONS AND CONDUCTIVITY - Silver’s impact is crucial in connections and conductivity as the world’s most highly conductive metal. Soldering and brazing, critical processes in joining metal components, rely on silver’s exceptional properties to create robust, leakproof, and electrically conductive bonds. Without silver’s intervention, these connections’ structural integrity would pale compared to their silver-enhanced counterparts.
ENGINES - In the field of jet and helicopter engines, silver steps in to fortify ball bearings, allowing them to withstand prolonged exposure to high temperatures. This reinforcement minimises friction between bearings and their housings, ensuring safe emergency engine shutdowns.
HEALTHCARE - Silver’s relationship with healthcare dates back to World War I, when silver foil was used to wrap battlefield wounds. Contemporary healthcare facilities incorporate silver into bandages, ointments, and equipment to combat bacteria and antibiotic-resistant ”superbugs.” The application of silver in water purification systems further showcases its disinfectant prowess, enhancing water quality in various settings.
EVERYDAY USE - Beyond its industrial applications, silver continues to grace our lives in elegant and useful ways. Sterling silver, revered for its durability and affordability, has been the preferred choice for crafting jewellery like bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. Silver’s resilience and longevity have also made it the enduring standard for tableware since the 14th century.
INVESTMENT AND CURRENCY - Silver’s allure as an investment metal persists, with silver bars and coins remaining popular among precious metals buyers. Its accessibility and value make physical silver an attractive option for those seeking to diversify their portfolios. There are many sources of upward pressure that could make the dam break towards a monumental revaluation upwards. A great boom in the solar industry would be hugely bullish for silver. ‘De-carbonisation’, the plan to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and the push for the automotive industry to move to renewable sources play a role and it has been estimated that x600 troy ounces of silver are required for the production of just one Tesla automobile.
The story of silver’s evolution is a testament to its adaptability and resilience. Silver’s journey is one of perpetual transformation from its traditional role as a precious metal to its integral part in driving automotive innovation and green energy solutions. The amalgamation of tradition and creation has never been more evident than in the silver market. The metal stands as a steadfast companion as the automotive sector steers towards innovation and the world accelerates towards sustainable energy solutions, guiding the path to a brighter and more sustainable tomorrow.
However, our envisioned high tech society may not be maintained for long without a sharp increase in the price of silver, due to immense industrial demand and an already dwindling supply. An essential component of ‘going green’, is ‘going silver’ and the fact of the matter is, we do not have enough silver to go green! Silver is actually acquired as a byproduct of mining other metals and is rarer than gold above ground. Its industrial utility shows no signs of waining and if an entire country, continent or wealthy institutional buyer were to follow suit with large acquisition of physical metal in order to safeguard future manufacturing and industrial output, a huge spike in the silver price could very well be a foregone conclusion. EG