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Industry demand for gold and silver

The composition of industry demand for silver is applicable.

Industrial demand for gold

Of 0.5 thousand metric tons of industrial demand for gold in 2011, seven-tenths was for electronics, one-tenth for dental, and two-tenths for other applications.[1] Gold reflects infrared wavelengths of light better than higher-energy light rays, which is why heat- and light-reflective coatings are vaporized with it. In dentistry, it is used as a filling or replacement material. Some gold salts are used in rheumatism therapy and against arthritis.[2]

Silver demand by industry since 1990

Industry demand for silver from 1990 to today

Source:  Own illustration based on data from the World Silver Survey (internet retrieved 01.10.2012).

Compared to gold, silver was 33 times more frequently demanded by industry; in 2011, excluding the photographic industry, the figure was 15.1 thousand tons. The share of industry in total demand was 10% for gold in 2011, but 47% for silver. Between 1990 and 2011, industrial demand for silver grew by an average of 2.7% per year, and by as much as 3.5% per year since 2003 - despite sharply rising silver prices and a financial market crisis in 2008/2009 that temporarily weakened global economic growth and industrial demand. Table 6.1 shows silver consumption by industry according to various applications.

Silver consumption by industry according to applications






in % of


in % of

in % p.a.













Hard alloys






Water treatment






Solar technologies


















Flat screens






Medicine, hygiene2)






RFID chips












Wood preservative


















Source:  Own calculations based on data from Fortis Bank Nederland and VM Group; see Fortis Bank Nederland/VM Group (2010), Silver Book (Internet:, accessed October 01, 2012): P. 16. - 1) No comparable data in this differentiation are available for dates further back in time. - 2) Medical technology applications including food hygiene. - 3) The Silver Institute shows around 3 thousand tons more for industrial consumption due to different recording methods and delimitations.

The comments contain important information on current and future industrial silver applications, some of which are still in the research and development phase, but some of which are considered to have high market potential.

Industrial demand for silver

  • The Electronics accounts for about half of the industrial demand for silver. Electronic components containing silver are used in cars, computers, airplanes, cell phones, refrigerators, light-emitting diodes, microwave ovens, dishwashers, telephones, sound storage media, TV sets, washing machines and toothbrushes, among other things. From 2003 to 2010, silver consumption in this sector grew by 4.4% per year. Lead-free soft solders are particularly significant. according to one estimate, more than 9 thousand metric tons will already be needed for this purpose in 2030 (2009: 5.5 thousand metric tons).[3]
  • The share of Catalysts of industrial silver consumption was 11% in 2010 (2003: 16%). Exhaust gas catalysts based on silver instead of platinum, which can be used in fuel cells and vehicles, among other things, could provide a new boost.[4]
  • At Hard alloyswhich play a role in automotive construction, energy distribution and aerospace, also accounted for 11% of industrial silver demand in 2010. For example, the outer coatings of NASA's space shuttles contained silver-lithium-aluminum alloys, and their energy supply was provided by silicon cells containing silver, as is the case with other spacecraft or satellites. Hard alloys are also used in cooling systems, sanitary equipment, and measurement and control technology. In the period from 2003 to 2010, demand for silver in the hard alloy sector increased by more than 3% per year.
  • Due to its germicidal effect and reflective properties, silver is also of Water treatment and solar energy generation of importance. Energy and water are considered global megatrends as non-renewable fossil fuels and global water resources become scarce. Together, they accounted for 12% of total industrial silver consumption in 2010; between 2003 and 2010, silver consumption for water treatment grew by 8%, and for solar energy by 22% per year.[5]
  • 5% of industrial consumption by silver in 2010 was for Batteries, growth in silver consumption was 4% per year between 2003 and 2010. Classic silver oxide batteries are long-lasting and are used in watches, cameras, calculators and other small electronic devices. Silver-zinc batteries are characterized by particularly long runtimes and high energy density. They are rechargeable and fully recyclable. It is possible that they will displace batteries based on lithium-ion technology from the market.
  • Due to its reflectivity, silver is predestined for Reflectors predestined. The first of these reflectors were mirrors. The production of energy-efficient windows as well as silver-coated eyeglass lenses and car windows to reflect solar radiation are also part of this application area. Silver accounted for 5% of industrial silver consumption in 2010, and silver consumption increased by 3.6% per year between 2003 and 2010.
  • The silver demand for Flat panel displays comprises 3% of total industrial silver demand. The annual increase was above average at 5.7% per year between 2003 and 2010. As the trend continues towards flat screens, demand for silver is also expected to increase in this area in the future.
  • Due to its antibacterial and germicidal effects, silver is of importance for medical applications and food and personal hygiene of importance. In 2010, silver accounted for 1.3% of industrial silver consumption, rising by 22% per year between 2003 and 2010. In addition to wound and dental treatment, there are many new applications that could become significant in the future. It has long been known that silver kills coliform bacteria and salmonella, but this also applies to viruses in relation to colloidal silver.[6] Nanoparticles of silver can also prevent heart attacks, strokes, embolisms, and thrombosis by preventing platelets from forming clots.[7] To kill bacteria, silver is incorporated into implants and medical devices in the form of nanoparticles. A card based on silver fabric is used to effectively shield high-frequency radiation from cell phones, which stresses the human body and may even be carcinogenic, according to recent results of long-term tests.[8] The antistatic properties of silver are used to make floor coverings for offices and airplanes. Due to its odor-inhibiting effects, silver ion-based shower gels and deodorants that are both highly effective and gentle on the skin entered the market in 2010.
  • RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a radio-controlled tag with an antenna containing silver, which is used for automatic identification and data collection in areas such as book lending, admission tickets, counterfeit protection for banknotes and medicines, personal and animal identification (passports, chips in the skin), ski passes, traffic (toll systems, speed measurement, immobilizers, tickets), inventory management and time recording.[9] Around 10 mg of silver are consumed per RFID chip. The share of industrial silver consumption was 0.5% in 2010. Between 2003 and 2010, it increased by 44% per year. According to one estimate, 5.7 thousand tons of silver will be needed in 2030 (2010: 0.07 thousand tons), which is practically non-recyclable.[10] This would correspond to nearly a quarter of the mine production in 2011.
  • Silver consumption for Textiles 2010 was 47 tons (0.4% of industrial demand). Textiles with silver woven into them(smart textiles) represent an application that not only affects medical areas, but also the private sector. For example, socks, scarves, pillowcases or face masks are offered.[11] In other contexts, nanotechnology-based processes are also used, with nanosilver being woven into fibers of garments for its germicidal effect. If a fashion trend were to possibly emerge here, this could result in a significant additional demand for silver.
  • Agents containing silver for Wood preservation represent an alternative to preparations that are harmful to health and the environment, e.g., those based on chromium-copper. However, it remains to be seen to what extent they will become established.
  • In view of the problems with the power grid infrastructure, the use of safer, more powerful High-temperature superconductors (HTSL) is being considered. Silver-reinforced power lines conduct many times the electrical energy of conventional copper cables over long distances.[12]
  • For secure long-term data storage outside PCs, indestructible microfiches with a high silver content have been developed in Germany. This form of data storage could become very important in the future, as conventional digital data storage media (hard disks, DVDs, etc.) suffer data loss over time, which is the case even if data media are not damaged by external influences.
  • For energy-saving light supply, silver-containing inorganic light-emitting diodes (LED)and in monitors silver-containing organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) are being used in monitors.

Future demand for silver

As far as most industrial applications are concerned, demand for silver is likely to continue to increase in the future. Some application areas will even require significant additional quantities of silver. This will be favored by the economic growth of the emerging markets in East Asia (e.g. China, India), Eastern Europe (e.g. Russia) and Latin America (e.g. Brazil), as well as the further development of existing applications or the discovery of new ones requiring silver.

in 2021, industrial demand for silver is expected to reach 22 thousand tons,[13] which would represent an annual increase of 5%. Industrial demand would then correspond to nine tenths of global silver production in 2011, the year with the highest silver production volume ever. This is justified by the strong increase in silver demand for RFID chips, solar cells and water purification. The decline in silver demand from the photographic industry, on the other hand, is not expected to continue. According to the report, silver demand for jewelry and silverware will also remain stable. Incidentally, the new industrial applications are associated with a trend towards declining average recycling rates, as economically viable recovery is not possible for technical reasons and due to the small quantities used - for example in RFID chips.

It should be noted that not every new industrial application is suitable for fulfilling exaggeratedly euphoric expectations. In the past, the market launch of new developments often took much longer than initially assumed in studies; moreover, not all applications that appeared promising led to the predicted increase in silver consumption (e.g. silver-containing agents for wood preservation, which have not yet been able to establish themselves on the market).[14] Conversely, high silver consumption can also decline again due to new product developments that displace silver, as is the case, for example, with the displacement of analog by digital photography.


This article was written by Dr. Jochen Dehio - author of the book"Gold oder Silber - wem gehört die Zukunft?

More about the author and the book

[1] Nach Angaben von Wikipedia, Gold – Tabellen und Grafiken (Internet: wiki/Gold/Tabellen_und_Grafiken, Abruf vom 01.10.2012).

[2] Inzwischen wird Gold allerdings durch preisgünstigere Medikamente verdrängt, zumal es zu allergischen Reaktionen und bei unsachgemäßer Anwendung sogar zu Organschäden führen kann.

[3] Vgl. Fraunhofer Institut System- und Innovationsforschung ISI und Institut für Zukunftsstudien und Technologiebewertung IZT (2009), Rohstoffe für Zukunftstechnologien – Einfluss des branchenspezifischen Rohstoffbedarfs in rohstoffintensiven Zukunftstechnologien auf die zukünftige Rohstoffnachfrage (Internet:, Abruf vom 01.10.2012): S. 302.

[4] Vgl., Chinesische Forscher entwickeln Brennstoffzellen ohne Silber-Katalysator ab 2011 verkaufen (Internet: 2397092.html, Abruf vom 01.10.2012); vgl. (2008), Neuartiger Silber-Katalysator in Belgien entwickelt (Internet:, Abruf vom 01.10.2012).

[5] Angewendet wird Silber zudem zur Wetterbeeinflussung. Hierzu wird Silberiodid aus Flugzeugen oder durch Raketen in Regenwolken eingebracht; vgl. Wikipedia, Silberiodid (Internet:, Abruf vom 01.10.2012). Dies soll die Hagelbildung verringern bzw. das Abregnen von Wolken induzieren. Dieses Verfahren wurde z.B. bei den Olympischen Spielen in China angewendet, um einer wetterbedingte Störung der Eröffnungsfeier in Peking vorzubeugen.

[6] Vgl. Wikipedia, Kolloidales Silber (Internet:, Abruf vom 01.10.2012).

[7] Vgl. Bild der Wissenschaft (2009), Edelmetalle gegen Schlaganfall, Silberpartikel sollen Thrombosen verhindern (Internet:, Abruf vom 01.10.2012). – Bei Versuchen mit Mäusen nahm die Blutgerinnung um 40 % ab. Dabei traten keine Nebenwirkungen auf. Die Nanopartikel lösen die Blutplättchen nicht auf, sondern versetzen sie in einem inaktiven Zustand.

[8] Vgl. Silverell – World of Silver (2009), Silberkarte schützt vor hochfrequenter Mobil-funkstrahlung. Presseinformation (Internet: safecard.pdf, Abruf vom 01.10.2012).

[9] Vgl. Wikipedia, RFID (Internet:, Abruf vom 01.10.2012).

[10] Vgl. Fraunhofer Institut System- und Innovationsforschung ISI und Institut für Zukunftsstudien und Technologiebewertung IZT (2009), Rohstoffe für Zukunftstechnologien (Internet-Abruf vom 01.10.2012): S. 302.

[11] Vgl. Silverell – World of Silver (Internet:, Abruf vom 01.10.2012).

[12] Das Silver Institute rechnet in diesem Bereich mit einem künftigen Silberverbrauch von 1,5 Tsd. Tonnen pro Jahr.

[13] Vgl. UniCredit Research (2010), Strukturwandel bei Silber. Commodity Outlook (Internet:, Abruf vom 01.10.2012).

[14] Manchmal haben Fehlprognosen ja etwas Gutes: Wären beispielsweise die Prognosen im Mittelalter zur Entwicklung der Zahl der Pferdekutschen wirklich eingetroffen, würden wir heute längst im Pferdemist ersticken.


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