A GFMS report for the Silver Institute predicts a bullish picture for the future of industrial silver demand with a record high of 665.9 million ounces in 2015.

The GFMS study, The Future of Silver Industrial Demand, made public Monday, also forecast the annual average silver price to continue to rise this year, “driven in large part by further inflows of investment demand, and supported by additional growth in fabrication demand.”

“Looking ahead, a bullish picture for the future of silver industrial demand emerges. From an estimated volume of 487.4 Moz in 2010, the global total is expected to post an uninterrupted period of growth through to a record high of 665.9 Moz in 2015,” said the report.

Much of the growth in the global total of industrial silver consumption will be driven by stronger demand for a number of established uses including the manufacture of electrical contacts,  and the use of silver in the photo voltaic (PV) industry.

“In addition to these segments, there are also a number of new uses of silver that merit attention,” noted GFMS.  These new uses center on silver’s antibacterial qualities, while other new uses tend to make use of its conductive properties, including solid state lighting and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags.

“Looking ahead, the number of such products, both antibacterial and conductive, is set to rise further, which will ultimately translate to an increase in silver offtake,” GFMS predicted. “That said, we would caution that it may be beyond the forecast timeframe before we see more noteworthy volumes of silver consumption emerging.”

Between 2010 and 2015, GFMS expects to see close to 180 Moz added to the global total of world silver industrial fabrication.

In the report, GFMS noted that cell phones used 13 million ounces of silver last year, while computers consumed 22 million ounces. Thick film PV consumed a whopping 47 million silver ounces in 2010, followed by automobiles which used 36 million ounces of silver.

TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANTAGES

Silver is considered one of the best electrical and thermal conduits, which makes it the metal of choice for a variety of electrical end-uses, including switches and contacts.  

The use of silver in the electrical and electronics industry is widespread, observed GFMS, “contributing the largest share to global silver industrial fabrication.” Electrical and electronics demand for silver reached an all-time high of 242.9 million ounces last year.

Silver conductive inks are used in the area of printed electronics, while silver is also used as coating material for optical data storage media, including DVDs.

“The rise in solar power is arguably the most significant development for silver demand in recent years,” GFMS asserted. “This year, demand is expected to reach nearly 70 million ounces, an increase of around 40% year-on-year.”

Meanwhile, batteries are manufactured with silver alloys-increasingly silver: zinc) as the cathode.

Usually in the form of mesh screens or crystals, silver is employed as a catalyst in numerous chemical reactions, such as the manufacturing of formaldehyde, a chemical used in the manufacturing of other organics chemicals and plastics. “The use of silver in the ethylene oxide (EO) industry has arguably been one of the unsung success stories of the silver market over the past two to three decades,” GFMS observed.

The joining of materials through the process of brazing is enhanced by silver’s fluidity and strength. Silver brazing alloys are widely used in applications ranging from air conditioning and refrigeration equipment to power distribution devices in the electrical engineering and automobile industries.

“As noted earlier, total industrial fabrication is forecast to rise 37% and there are no obvious reasons as to why brazing alloy and solder (BA&S) demand should behave differently,” GFMS said. The metals analysts suggested BA&S demand will “shrug off the ongoing challenges posed by substitution to base metals and the adoption of techniques that use no BA&S.”

FUTURE INDUSTRIAL DEMAND FOR SILVER

In their analysis, GFMS discussed what they termed “novel and new industrial uses of silver,” such as solid-state lighting, RFID tags, and supercapacitors. 

Although the use of RFID tags is forecast to undergo tremendous growth, silver global demand for this application was estimated at one million to two million ounces last year.

Supercapacitors–devices that store and release energy indefinitely with no loss of performance–“offer a potential growth area for silver, where printed silver can be used as an electrode,” according to GFMS. “Overall this technology is likely to achieve commercial success, although the trend towards miniaturization and the use of nanosilver is likely to limit the absolute volume of silver demand. In addition, less expensive alternatives are also likely to develop.”

Nanosilver is attracting growing interest from both industry and policy makers. Examples of silver products and applications using nanosilver include silver algaecides, silver impregnated water filters, pigments, photographics, wound treatment, conductive/antistatic composites and catalysts. New producers include nanosilver in textiles, coatings, plastics and medical articles and devices.

“The potential success of nanosilver is therefore largely contingent on regulatory approval being granted, in various jurisdictions,” GFMS advised. “Should this materialize, the use of nanosilver is likely to expand, notably in health-related and electrical applications.”

Silver’s bactericidal properties are achieving success in water purification applications, as well as medical uses.

However, GFMS analysts suggested global silver demands in water purification applications is estimated to be no more than 2 million ounces annually. “Looking ahead, however, there is considerable growth potential, and offtake in 2015 may reach 2.4 Moz.”

 

Silver is often used in wound treatments, dressings, powders and creams, which make use of its antimicrobial actions against yeasts, molds and bacteria. The precious metals can also be used in catheters, as well as medical implantation devices such as prosthetic heart valves and vascular grafts, the report noted.

GFMS suggested silver use in medical applications “may grow strongly over the next five years to approach some 3 Moz by 2015.”

The report also discusses the use of nanosilver in goods packaging and hygiene, which, combined, would consume 4 million ounces of silver over the next five years.

Despite discussion regarding the use of silver in autocatalysts, GFMS said, “We are of the opinion that this is likely to remain a niche product and do not expect annual demand to significantly exceed 100,000 ounces by 2015.”

In their analysis, GFMS also noted silver can be used in superconductors, “which conduct electricity far more efficiently compared with conventional cables.” Nevertheless, the analysts suggested the technology “is still in its relative infancy…Its long-term future, therefore, remains somewhat uncertain, as not only is its success highly contingent on the absence of government support, but its viability also depends on the absence of alternative, non-silver bearing technologies.”

Michael DiRienzo, executive director of the Silver Institute, said the GFMS report “demonstrates how buoyant silver industrial demand is, not only because of the lack of substitution, but also because of the wide range of established and growing new uses that make up industrial demand.”

To download a copy of The Future of Silver Industrial Demand report, go to www.silverinstitute.org/images/stories/silver/PDF/futuresilverindustrialdemand.pdf

 

Metatags: GFMS, Silver Institute, silver industrial demand, silver industrial demand outlook, nanosilver, silver medical uses, silver electronics uses,