Infographic: 21 Incredible Uses for Silver
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21 Incredible Uses for Silver

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From our perspective, silver is the most fascinating metal in existence.

Silver is best known for having extraordinary properties that have made it an effective monetary metal for thousands of years. Currency buffs all know the metal as being rare, durable, fungible, malleable, ductile, and divisible, which match the properties of money agreed on by most economists. Silver, of course, has been used by civilizations ranging from Ancient Rome to the United States for monetary purposes.

However, these monetary uses are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of silver’s overall utility. More than 50% of all silver uses are for industrial applications, and it’s not just a single application that dominates that mix.

Silver has an array of properties that make it interesting for many practical purposes. Firstly, silver is the most conductive and the most reflective metal, which make it useful in batteries, solar panels, and electronics. It’s also an effective industrial catalyst for producing very important materials such as plastics or polyester. Lastly, silver is extremely anti-bacterial and non-toxic, making it handy for a wide variety of medical and technological applications.

21 Incredible Uses for Silver

The following infographic shows 21 incredible uses for silver. Many of them may be surprising or seemingly “oddball”, but it really speaks to the impressive versatility of the metal.

21 Incredible Uses for Silver

Image courtesy of: BullionVault

The above infographic from BullionVault puts the many uses of silver in perspective.

The metal’s properties make it a great choice for technological applications such as batteries, solar panels, media storage, or 3d printing. However, it also has many “oddball” uses as well: anti-microbial labcoats, water purification, laundry detergent, photography, stained glass, wood preservation, treating warts, cloud seeding, and food garnishing.

The possibilities seem endless for silver, and there’s no telling what it could be used for in the future.

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Energy

Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita

Wealthy countries consume large amounts of natural resources per capita, and the U.S. is no exception. See how much is used per person.

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Visualizing U.S. Consumption of Fuel and Materials per Capita

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Wealthy countries consume massive amounts of natural resources per capita, and the United States is no exception.

According to data from the National Mining Association, each American needs more than 39,000 pounds (17,700 kg) of minerals and fossil fuels annually to maintain their standard of living.

Materials We Need to Build

Every building around us and every sidewalk we walk on is made of sand, steel, and cement.

As a result, these materials lead consumption per capita in the United States. On average, each person in America drives the demand of over 10,000 lbs of stone and around 7,000 lbs of sand and gravel per year.

Material/Fossil FuelPounds Per Person
Stone10,643
Natural Gas9,456
Sand, Gravel7,088
Petroleum Products 6,527
Coal 3,290
Cement724
Other Nonmetals569
Salt359
Iron Ore239
Phosphate Rock 166
Sulfur66
Potash49
Soda Ash36
Bauxite (Aluminum)24
Other Metals 21
Copper13
Lead11
Zinc6
Manganese4
Total 39,291

The construction industry is a major contributor to the U.S. economy.

Crushed stone, sand, gravel, and other construction aggregates represent half of the industrial minerals produced in the country, resulting in $29 billion in revenue per year.

Also on the list are crucial hard metals such as copper, aluminum, iron ore, and of course many rarer metals used in smaller quantities each year. These rarer metals can make a big economic difference even when their uses are more concentrated and isolated—for example, palladium (primarily used in catalytic converters) costs $54 million per tonne.

Fuels Powering our Lives

Despite ongoing efforts to fight climate change and reduce carbon emissions, each person in the U.S. uses over 19,000 lbs of fossil fuels per year.

U.S. primary energy consumption by energy source, 2021

Gasoline is the most consumed petroleum product in the United States.

In 2021, finished motor gasoline consumption averaged about 369 million gallons per day, equal to about 44% of total U.S. petroleum use. Distillate fuel oil (20%), hydrocarbon gas liquids (17%), and jet fuel (7%) were the next most important uses.

Reliance on Other Countries

Over the past three decades, the United States has become reliant on foreign sources to meet domestic demand for minerals and fossil fuels. Today, the country is 100% import-reliant for 17 mineral commodities and at least 50% for 30 others.

In order to reduce the dependency on other countries, namely China, the Biden administration has been working to diversify supply chains in critical minerals. This includes strengthening alliances with other countries such as Australia, India, and Japan.

However, questions still remain about how soon these policies can make an impact, and the degree to which they can ultimately help localize and diversify supply chains.

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