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Silver and Germ Warfare

There are several facets to HeiQ's business model which should greatly excite silver investors. Most-notably, HeiQ does not manufacture anti-microbial clothing, or upholstery, or many similar products where anti-microbial, silver-based technology can be introduced. Instead, it manufactures an additive which can be relatively easily assimilated into the manufacturing processes of companies which are already manufacturing such consumer and commercial products.

What this means is that this emerging technology can be incorporated into our economies far more rapidly than if each individual manufacturer needed to design and engineer their own anti-microbial products, one by one. The other aspect of HeiQ's silver-based technology which I found especially exciting was that it is an extremely flexible technology.

In the case of anti-microbial textiles, it can either be essentially woven into these textiles or applied to the surface in a coating. The trade-off here is obvious. Weaving the silver into the textile results in a slower rate of ion-release, and thus greater durability. Applying this to the textile surface increases the rate of ion-release (and the potency of the anti-microbial effect), but with a decrease in durability as a consequence.

As a reminder to readers, in commercial terms there are two very different uses for this technology. Polyester-silver sportswear uses this technology to make sportswear garments odor-resistant since it is the growth of bacteria which produces odor (through perspiration).

Otherwise, its anti-microbial properties are health-related. Armies provide soldiers with silver-laced socks to prevent or at least retard many forms of foot-infections. Beyond this, the ability to incorporate this into both clothing, bedding and upholstery means that the potential uses of silver-based anti-microbial textiles are virtually infinite, but naturally begin with hospitals, labs, doctors' offices, and all other health-care facilities where there is a need to prevent/control cross-contamination.

Silver-based technologies are not the only option when it comes to anti-microbial textiles. I came across another company which manufacturers an anti-microbial treatment for the garments of hospital workers, and does not use silver-based technology.

According to HeiQ, silver is a relatively new product for use with textiles. Alternative technologies include quaternary ammoniums, and Triclosan (which has been recently de-listed from Oekotex, an international testing and certification system for textiles). Silver is purportedly the "biocide" product with the broadest bacterial-killing spectrum, and the most "wash-fast" technology, which presumably means treatments which maintain efficacy after washing.

Naturally cost-effectiveness will be an important factor in the future of these competing technologies. Silver-bulls may be worried that a sudden spike in the price of silver could kill off innovation and expansion in the use of silver as an anti-microbial agent. This greatly depends upon the precise application involved. With respect to these silver-based products, research conducted by HeiQ shows that (depending on the product) silver is used in concentrations ranging from 1/1,000th (by weight) to only 10 ppm (parts per million).

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