As one of the first metals ever discovered, silver has a long history of extensive human use. It still plays a role in current technologies such as medical devices and energy generation.
Out of all the precious metals, silver has the greatest electrical conductivity. This makes it an optimal material for making electronic components like circuit boards, electrodes, and wires. As a result, silver is highly sought after by the manufacturers who need to satisfy the growing demand for “green energy” technologies such as high-efficiency solar panels, long-lasting batteries, and electric vehicles.
Let’s look at the role silver plays in generating clean energy.
Silver in Electric Vehicles
Silver’s resistance to corrosion is a crucial factor in creating electronics for many industries, and the electric vehicle (EV) industry is no exception.
Car manufacturers use silver to improve the conductivity in the electrical contacts for power seats and windows, as well as other integral automotive electronics. EV manufacturers in particular use silver for additional components like sensor systems and batteries. This precious metal is such an important part of EV manufacturing that one study found the automotive sector will approach an incredible 90 million ounces of silver consumption by 2025.
Silver in Solar Panels
Over the past decade, the world has begun to look for more ways to generate clean energy, and the popularity of solar panels has grown in both the home and industrial markets.
Solar panels work by harnessing the power of the sun with photovoltaic (PV) cells, which are made with silver paste and silicon wafers layered together to conduct electricity.
When sunlight strikes a solar PV cell, the conductors in the silver paste absorb the energy and electrons are set free to maximize the output of solar cells.
Most solar panels use 20 grams of silver in the manufacturing process, which means the solar panel industry consumes about 8% of the world’s silver supply. This growing market has also been responsible for increasing the reclamation of silver, adding it to the list of renewable energy sources.
Silver in Battery Cells
Many of the smaller batteries found in today’s personal electronic devices such as watches, calculators, and hearing aids are made with silver.
Silver oxide batteries are replacing lithium-ion batteries, thanks to silver oxide leading to a more efficient and longer-lasting experience for consumers. This is especially helpful in the smallest devices, where it’s not always easy to replace a battery.
This increased demand for silver in clean energy generation will likely continue for the foreseeable future, and will also be a massive help for the health of our planet (and the bottom line for silver investors).