Silver, Powders and Flakes: 201126 Sep 2011 • by Natalie Aster
NanoMarkets believes that end-users will continue to rely on tried and tested silver unless they can be persuaded to move to more sophisticated materials without sacrificing performance or until economic considerations warrant a switch to such alternative materials in order to maintain profitability. While hybrid silver materials and nanosilver will grow dramatically in the next eight years, this growth will be from a very small base. And even though end-users will look to find ways to reduce silver consumption per unit of products as a result of high silver prices, demand for traditional silver flakes and powders will depend largely on the global economic situation and growth in emerging markets continues.
The report “Silver, Powders and Flakes: 2011” by NanoMarkets discusses the considerable challenges that the silver powder and flakes business will face in the coming years. The most obvious of these is the high price of silver, which shows no sign of abating. This will make end users of silver powders and flakes begin to look at alternatives ranging from traditional silver alternatives such as carbon and copper all the way to the latest nanomaterials. The report explores the emerging opportunities in the silver powders and flakes space in the light of all these trends and provides a truly up-to-date guide to where the opportunities are to be found and how the challenges can be avoided in this important materials market.
Published: June 2011
Price: US$ 2,995.00
Report Sample Abstract
Some Struggles for Brazing and Soldering
In the brazing and soldering alloys market, silver flakes and powders already face competition from practical, less expensive alternatives, and because this market already uses alloys with varying silver content, it is a natural target for customers to find ways to decrease overall silver usage. On the positive side, the overall size of the brazing and soldering market is expected to increase as the global economy recovers from the recent downturn and as developing markets, particularly in China and India, continue to grow. The result: demand for silver powder in brazing and solder alloys should remain essentially flat.
Silver brazes are most typically used for joining of hard metals, stainless steel, titanium, and certain copper joints. They are prized for their high performance and ease of use. And while end-users are expected to seeks ways to reduce cost by reducing silver content, NanoMarkets anticipates that even with high silver prices, this segment will experience some growth. There are few suitable non-silver options for hard metal brazes, ceramic-to-metal brazes and aerospace and aviation brazes, so these segments will also provide opportunities to silver powder and flake manufacturers.
Nanosilver: Small Packages with Real Potential
Nanosilver has been suggested for use as a conductive material in sophisticated inks and adhesives, and its inherent antimicrobial nature has led to its use in nanosilver-impregnated consumer goods and medical applications. NanoMarkets expects that both of these segments will be growth areas.
In conductive applications, nanosilver finds use mostly in new or emerging applications that can more easily support its high cost, such as ink-jet inks for new printed electronics or nano-adhesives. Furthermore, as the high cost of production of nanosilver comes down in response to growing volume demand, its high efficiency may make it attractive in a wider array of ink/paste and adhesive applications if average silver prices remain over $30 per Troy ounce as NanoMarkets anticipates. Suppliers will need to demonstrate real savings for customers, though, as other less expensive alternatives like carbon, copper, and even silver-coated metal hybrids, may also be effective.
There is also opportunity for nanosilver in screen printing inks as the importance of alternative printing methods (ink jet, gravure, flexographic, etc.) that require printed silver with uniform and fine geometries increases. Miniaturization in the printed circuit board (PCB) market has also created a need for printing of ever-finer features using approaches ideally suited for nanosilver.
As an antimicrobial preparation for medical and consumer goods, nanosilver is expected to provide longer durability and increased sustainability of antimicrobial activity while using less silver than silver salts. And since nanosilvers can be embedded into products in ways that silver salts cannot, a much wider range of applications are now possible.
The biggest potential markets for nanosilver in consumer foods are in food packaging and food preparation items, textiles like socks and athletic wear, and miscellaneous plastic consumer goods. In all cases, bulk impregnation provides a uniform concentration of nanosilver, allows for lower loadings and does not affect the characteristics of the host materials. Similarly, likely medical applications will include impregnation of infection-prone or biofilm-prone components like catheters, tubing, bandage materials, prosthetics, etc.
There is concern, however, about the long-term health effects of increased or widespread consumer use of silver are still under debate both in the medical and regulatory communities, particularly in the US and Europe. The regulatory environment is beginning to clarify, though, and NanoMarkets expects that most regulations will be finalized within the next year two. In addition, Asian manufacturers are moving forward with the introduction of numerous nanosilver-based antimicrobial products. Thus strong growth is expected for nanosilver in consumer goods and medical devices, with the growth rate highest in Asia.
Hybrids Provide Hope
Suppliers may also find a competitive advantage in a world of high silver prices by augmenting their silver lines with less expensive, yet still sufficiently high performance, hybrid materials. Two key examples of this strategy include silver-coated copper powders and flakes for conductive adhesives and conductive ink applications, and new and improved brazing alloys with reduced precious metal content. Hybrid materials for conductive applications do not perform as well as pure silver, but rising silver prices are driving interest in these alternatives where there performance is adequate. In the brazing industry, suppliers are working closing with clients to find customized solutions for brazing applications where alloy characteristics are more important than conductivity.
Leading Players in the Silver Flake and Powder Market
Leading traditional silver powder and flake producers include Ferro, Ames Goldsmith, Metalor, and Johnson Matthey. Prince/Izant is a market leader among specialized companies producing powders for brazing. Inframat, ANP, and many other small firms are actively commercializing nanosilver products.
More information can be found in the report “Silver, Powders and Flakes: 2011” by NanoMarkets.
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