Los Alamos National Laboratory
Periodic Table of Elements: LANL

Back to Elements List

For centuries many countries used silver for coinage. The United States monetary system was based on the silver standard from 1933 until 1968. For centuries many countries used silver for coinage. The United States monetary system was based on the silver standard from 1933 until 1968.

Silver

Atomic Number: 47 Atomic Radius: 203 pm (Van der Waals)
Atomic Symbol: Ag Melting Point: 961.78 °C
Atomic Weight: 107.9 Boiling Point: 2162 °C
Electron Configuration: [Kr]5s14d10 Oxidation States: 1

History

The Latin word for silver is argentum. Silver has been known since ancient times. It is mentioned in Genesis. Slag dumps in Asia Minor and on islands in the Aegean Sea indicate that man learned to separate silver from lead as early as 3000 B.C.

Sources

Silver occurs natively and in ores such as argentite (Ag2S) and horn silver (AgCl); lead, lead-zinc, copper, gold, and copper-nickel ores are principal sources. Mexico, Canada, Peru, and the U.S. are the principal silver producers in the western hemisphere.

Production

Silver is also recovered during electrolytic refining of copper. Commercial fine silver contains at least 99.9% silver. Purities of 99.999+% are available commercially.

Properties

Pure silver has a brilliant white metallic luster. It is a little harder than gold and is very ductile and malleable, being exceeded only by gold and perhaps palladium. Pure silver has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals, and possesses the lowest contact resistance. It is stable in pure air and water, but tarnishes when exposed to ozone, hydrogen sulfide, or air containing sulfur. The alloys of silver are important.

Uses

Sterling silver is used for jewelry, silverware, etc. where appearance is paramount. This alloy contains 92.5% silver, the remainder being copper or some other metal. Silver is of the utmost importance in photography, about 30% of the U.S. industrial consumption going into this application. It is used for dental alloys. Silver is used in making solder and brazing alloys, electrical contacts, and high capacity silver-zinc and silver-cadmium batteries. Silver paints are used for making printed circuits. It is used in mirror production and may be deposited on glass or metals by chemical deposition, electrode position, or by evaporation. When freshly deposited, it is the best reflector of visible light known, but is rapidly tarnished and loses much of its reflectance. It is a poor reflector of ultraviolet. Silver fulminate, a powerful explosive, is sometimes formed during the silvering process. Silver iodide is used in seeding clouds to produce rain. Silver chloride has interesting optical properties as it can be made transparent; it also is a cement for glass. Silver nitrate, or lunar caustic, the most important silver compound, is used extensively in photography. Silver for centuries has been used traditionally for coinage by many countries of the world. In recent times, however, consumption of silver has greatly exceeded the output.

Handling

While silver itself is not considered to be toxic, most of its salts are poisonous. Exposure to silver (metal and soluble compounds, as Ag) in air should not exceed 0.01 mg/m3, (8-hour time-weighted average - 40 hour week). Silver compounds can be absorbed in the circulatory system and reduced silver deposited in the various tissues of the body. A condition, known as argyria, results with a grayish pigmentation of the skin and mucous membranes. Silver has germicidal effects and kills many lower organisms effectively without harm to higher animals.

Contact Us | Careers | Bradbury Science Museum | Emergencies | Inside LANL | Maps | Site Feedback | SSL Portal | Training

Operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's NNSA © Copyright 2014 LANS, LLC All rights reserved | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy