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Silver News: Supply and Demand Fundamentals, and New Technological Breakthroughs

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Silver had a tough year in 2017, with flat demand and shrinking supply. Even with these headwinds, the white metal still gained more than 6% on the year. With demand growing in key industrial sectors and supply tightening, it appears silver is poised for a strong year in 2018.

In its most recent issue of Silver News, the Silver Institute outlines the 2017 silver market data compiled in the GFMS/Thomson Reuters’s Interim Silver Market Review and highlights a number of technological innovations involving silver.

According to the GFMS survey, overall silver demand fell roughly 5% in 2017 primarily due to a sharp dip in investment. The market will show a small annual physical surplus of 32.2 million ounces for 2017, but there are signs demand is turning around. Industrial fabrication is forecast to show a 3% rise when the numbers are all in for 2017, led by strong gains in the solar industry and modest increases in demand from electronics and brazing alloys and solders. This is expected to accelerate in 2018.

Silver supply remained broadly flat last year. Mine production fell about 2% year-on-year. An increase in scrap supply helped offset declining mine production.

During the Silver Industrial Conference in Washington, D.C., the focus was on growing demand for silver in key sectors.

The latest issue of Silver News also features some fascinating technological developments related to silver.

  • By combining silver nanowires and graphene — a form of carbon — a team of UK scientists has made a material that could produce touchscreens that are stronger and more flexible than those currently available.
  • Scientists at Kumamoto University, Keio University and Dai Nippon Toryo Co., Ltd., in Japan have developed a process using lasers that increases the anti-bacterial fighting properties of silver nanoparticles.
  • A team led by Shahnaz Qadri, Ph.D., College of Science and Engineering, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Doha, Qatar, explored the potential of using particles composed of silver, copper and boron to minimize the risk of bone infection in diabetics. A single dose of the antimicrobial nanoparticles killed 90% of bacteria-causing infection in bone cells.
  • A research team at Binghamton University, State University of New York, has developed a textile-based, bacteria-powered bio-battery that could be integrated into wearable electronics. The batteries are powered by bacteria in sweat and rely on silver-oxide as one of its components.
  • A uniquely-designed toothbrush has a head composed of a rubber-like material — thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) — embedded with silver particles. TPE combines the properties of rubber with the benefits of thermoplastic, which makes the bristle head flexible and recyclable.

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