Silver has reflective, chemical, and conductive properties that are superior to all other metals. This provides two key uses for silver in the production of solar energy. As the world's most-reflective metal (reflecting 97% of all solar energy), silver is used to make the world's best mirrors -- a vital component of solar energy production. In addition, because silver is such a superb catalyst, it also can improve the efficiency of "solar cells," by being blended with these semiconductor materials to increase the power output of any such power unit by approximately 12% (as reported by The Silver Institute).
In an energy-starved world, it is already a "given" that the entire world will have to dramatically increase the percentage of power from such clean-and-"green" power sources. With "peak oil" an obvious reality, and thus oil prices certain to increase to multiples of the current price, even a sharp rise in the price of silver would not reduce the demand for this power source, and there is no substitute for silver -- as peak efficiency of these solar power units must be achieved for solar energy to be a viable energy source (in any kind of large-scale applications)
In the U.S. alone, 5 million ounces of silver are used each year in the production of mirrors. However, the vast majority of such production is of conventional mirrors (i.e,. what we hang on our walls), because solar power is in its infancy. As this application grows in importance, those U.S. consumption numbers can be expected to jump dramatically. Projecting that consumption over the entire globe, and it is easy to see global demand for silver -- just for mirrors/solar energy -- amounting to several, hundred million ounces per year.
For those nations not willing (or able) to undertake the massive capital investments (and environmental risks) associated with becoming reliant upon nuclear power, solar energy will continue to become a more attractive alternative to fossil fuels.
In the massive global battery market, the newest generation of batteries uses a silver-oxide compound, replacing the previous generation of lithium-ion batteries. The silver-based batteries are not only much more "environmentally friendly" than the lithium batteries, but also contain no flammable compounds -- which have caused (for example) a number of laptop computers to spontaneously burst into flame. This is making silver-based batteries the new battery of choice for mobile phones and laptop computers (along with many other electrical applications). With these markets increasing exponentially -- on a global basis -- silver consumption in batteries is also just in its infancy.
As important as silver is becoming as a power source, that usage of silver is destined to be eclipsed by the consumption of silver due to another one of its superior properties: as an antibacterial agent. I have stressed this particular, new explosion in demand on a number of previous occasions, most recently in
The number of potential applications in this area is nearly infinite, thus the uses listed comprise only a small sample of silver's potential in this area. It's antibacterial uses can be divided into hygiene-based applications along with genuine "medical" applications.
In the former category, the first use of silver on a massive commercial level has been to use silver in clothing. It is used in socks and other military-issue clothing because its anti-bacterial properties retard the development of bacterial infection -- eliminating a hygiene problem that has plagued armies for thousands of years.
However, because it is bacteria which is the source of human odor from perspiration, the use of silver in sportswear has exploded into one of the largest single applications of silver. This one usage already consumes more than 1,200
of silver per year -- used in the manufacturing of 50 million tons of polyester sportswear (annually), alone.
Once again, current consumption of silver for this usage is merely beginning. In the world's largest commercial-materials trade show, a fabric-maker called
just won the 2009 "Gold Award for Healthcare Fabrics" for producing the world's first commercially available silver upholstery.
The potential usage in this one category of silver consumption is nothing short of mind-boggling. Obviously, every hospital will at least consider the cost/benefits of using silver upholstery in all of its furnishings - given that the spread of (antibiotic resistant) bacterial infections in hospitals is one of the most serious health issues in the world's hospitals.
Data from the U.K. shows that 300,000 hospital patients/visitors/workers currently develop bacterial infections from those hospitals each year. Worse, the biggest aspect of this problem is in the spreading of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains, most-notably MRSA ("methicillin-resistant staphylococcus").
This rapidly growing problem is expected to result in 5,000 deaths per year. Putting aside the human consequences, legal liability from all those hospital-based infections could threaten the solvency of medical systems all over the world -- now that science has unlocked the power of silver to win a battle against "bugs," which was already lost using antibiotics.
What is most significant about silver's antibacterial properties (compared with every other antibacterial substance currently known to science) is that it it biologically impossible for bacteria to ever develop "resistance" to silver-based compounds.
Thus in addition to using silver alloys in all sorts of hospital tools and surfaces, in addition to using it in hospital clothing and gowns, and in addition to using it in hospital upholstery, a Scottish-based company is currently working with Scotland's medical authorities to perfect a silver-based nasal ointment and antiseptic body wash to use on people/patients to disinfect them
they are admitted to hospitals.
With this bacterial infection problem spreading globally on an exponential basis, silver-based applications to fight this problem must also increase at least as quickly.
In the world outside of our hospitals, we can expect the usage of silver as an anti-bacterial agent to amount to somewhere between ten times and 1,000 times the amount of silver used inside of hospitals. If silver is being widely used in hospitals then such usage must also spill over into all the world's doctor's offices and clinics -- both medical and dental.
Once usage spreads in these areas, it is virtually certain that transportation companies would be next to follow suit. With public transportation (from buses to jets) one of the primary mechanisms for breeding and spreading dangerous diseases, it would be no surprise at all to see the vast majority of global transportation companies to begin to switch to silver-based upholstery for all their seating -- and very likely other antibacterial uses as well.
At that point, it would be inevitable for antibacterial silver applications to show up in all public institutions. Following that, it would naturally spread to applications inside our homes. The more that the spread of these super bugs causes problems, deaths and fear, the faster these antibacterial silver applications will spread.
Lack of space prevents me from getting into dozens of the other huge current uses for silver (for instance, one out of every seven pairs of glasses sold in the U.S. has a silver coating). Furthermore, as the price of gold rises, and gold jewelry becomes unaffordable for much of the world's population, silver jewelry will take its place.
The Silver Institute has compiled a list of some of the metal's possible usages. How about silver bandages that literally heal our wounds, along with providing a protective covering? For cancer patients, scientists are working on silver "micro-cubes" -- which could be planted beneath the skin, "hunt down" tumors, and then could be triggered beneath our skin (with laser light) and their chemotherapy "payload" then directly unleashed inside these tumors. Such targeted use of chemotherapy should not only result in higher cure rates, but also reduce the extremely unpleasant consequences of chemotherapy.
As I have stressed in previous commentaries, beyond the massive quantities of silver that will be demanded for these countless uses, it is the fact that silver is generally consumed in trace amounts that assures that the price of silver is headed to a three-digit number some time this decade.
Because silver is used in such minute amounts, this means the price of silver could literally increase tenfold -- and only have a tiny impact on demand for many of these large-scale uses. For example, silver represents only 1/40,000th of the total inputs in polyester sportswear, by weight, and there is no possible substitute.
What this means is that unlike the supply crunch that is coming for the gold market -- and which will (eventually) take gold to several multiples of its current price, when the (imminent) silver supply crisis hits, we can expect the price of silver to increase to several times its current price virtually overnight.
This will come from a combination of two factors. First of all, current inventories have been exaggerated (by 300%) through the incredibly transparent sham of adding all the bogus, banker-paper of the silver "bullion-ETFs" to "official inventories." This has occurred despite the fact that all of this silver is (by definition) privately held (and thus not for sale) and despite the fact there is no proof that this "ETF silver" even exists (see
Secondly, as I've illustrated previously, unlike gold, the demand for silver will be from industrial users, not investors or speculators. With these users needing silver, having no possible substitute available, and with their consumption being (for the most part) totally unaffected by price, these industrial users will buy $100-an-ounce silver just as readily as they are buying it at $16 an ounce.
This is bad news for
-- the largest silver-short in the history of the world -- which will have to compete with all of these industrial users for supplies of silver that are obviously inadequate to satisfy industrial demand - let alone allow JPMorgan to "cover" one ounce of the hundreds of millions of ounces of silver short positions that JPMorgan (and a couple of its fellow oligarchs) are sitting on.
This gives all silver investors two reasons to look forward to the future: first, to see their investment multiply in value, and second, to watch the banksters eat tens of billions of dollars in losses on their short positions -- or (much more likely) simply engage in the largest commodities default in the history of human commerce, destroying the Comex fraud factory once and for all.
Jeff Nielson studied economics for four years at the University of British Columbia, before going on to attain a law degree from that same institution in 1989. He came to the precious metals sector around the middle of last decade as an investor, but quickly decided this was where he wanted to focus his career. After publishing his own, amateur blog for a year, in 2008 he founded Bullion Bulls Canada: a web-site providing information and analysis to precious metals investors. Today, bullionbullscanada.com reaches a global audience of precious metals investors in more than 120 countries.