Periodic Table > Silver
 

Glossary


Allotropes
Some elements exist in several different structural forms, called allotropes. Each allotrope has different physical properties.


For more information on the Visual Elements image see the Uses and properties section below.

 

Glossary


Group
A vertical column in the periodic table. Members of a group typically have similar properties and electron configurations in their outer shell.


Period
A horizontal row in the periodic table. The atomic number of each element increases by one, reading from left to right.


Block
Elements are organised into blocks by the orbital type in which the outer electrons are found. These blocks are named for the characteristic spectra they produce: sharp (s), principal (p), diffuse (d), and fundamental (f).


Atomic number
The number of protons in an atom.


Electron configuration
The arrangements of electrons above the last (closed shell) noble gas.


Melting point
The temperature at which the solid–liquid phase change occurs.


Boiling point
The temperature at which the liquid–gas phase change occurs.


Sublimation
The transition of a substance directly from the solid to the gas phase without passing through a liquid phase.


Density (g cm−3)
Density is the mass of a substance that would fill 1 cm3 at room temperature.


Relative atomic mass
The mass of an atom relative to that of carbon-12. This is approximately the sum of the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus. Where more than one isotope exists, the value given is the abundance weighted average.


Isotopes
Atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons.


CAS number
The Chemical Abstracts Service registry number is a unique identifier of a particular chemical, designed to prevent confusion arising from different languages and naming systems.


Fact box

 
Group 11  Melting point 961.78°C, 1763.2°F, 1234.93 K 
Period Boiling point 2162°C, 3924°F, 2435 K 
Block Density (g cm−3) 10.5 
Atomic number 47  Relative atomic mass 107.868  
State at 20°C Solid  Key isotopes 107Ag 
Electron configuration [Kr] 4d105s1  CAS number 7440-22-4 
ChemSpider ID 22394 ChemSpider is a free chemical structure database
 

Glossary


Image explanation

Murray Robertson is the artist behind the images which make up Visual Elements. This is where the artist explains his interpretation of the element and the science behind the picture.


Appearance

The description of the element in its natural form.


Biological role

The role of the element in humans, animals and plants.


Natural abundance

Where the element is most commonly found in nature, and how it is sourced commercially.

Uses and properties

 
Image explanation
The symbol is based on the widely used alchemical symbol for silver. In the background is a detail from the ‘Gundestrup Cauldron’, the largest known example of European Iron Age silver work.
Appearance
Silver is a relatively soft, shiny metal. It tarnishes slowly in air as sulfur compounds react with the surface forming black silver sulfide.
Uses
Sterling silver contains 92.5% silver. The rest is copper or some other metal. It is used for jewellery and silver tableware, where appearance is important.

Silver is used to make mirrors, as it is the best reflector of visible light known, although it does tarnish with time. It is also used in dental alloys, solder and brazing alloys, electrical contacts and batteries. Silver paints are used for making printed circuits.

Silver bromide and iodide were important in the history of photography, because of their sensitivity to light. Even with the rise of digital photography, silver salts are still important in producing high-quality images and protecting against illegal copying. Light-sensitive glass (such as photochromic lenses) works on similar principles. It darkens in bright sunlight and becomes transparent in low sunlight.

Silver has antibacterial properties and silver nanoparticles are used in clothing to prevent bacteria from digesting sweat and forming unpleasant odours. Silver threads are woven into the fingertips of gloves so that they can be used with touchscreen phones.
Biological role
Silver has no known biological role. Chronic ingestion or inhalation of silver compounds can lead to a condition known as argyria, which results in a greyish pigmentation of the skin and mucous membranes. Silver has antibacterial properties and can kill lower organisms quite effectively.
Natural abundance
Silver occurs uncombined, and in ores such as argentite and chlorargyrite (horn silver). However, it is mostly extracted from lead-zinc, copper, gold and copper-nickel ores as a by-product of mining for these metals. The metal is recovered either from the ore, or during the electrolytic refining of copper. World production is about 20,000 tonnes per year.
 
Glossary

Atomic radius, non-bonded
Half of the distance between two unbonded atoms of the same element when the electrostatic forces are balanced. These values were determined using several different methods.


Covalent radius
Half of the distance between two atoms within a single covalent bond. Values are given for typical oxidation number and coordination.


Electron affinity
The energy released when an electron is added to the neutral atom and a negative ion is formed.


Electronegativity (Pauling scale)
The tendency of an atom to attract electrons towards itself, expressed on a relative scale.


First ionisation energy
The minimum energy required to remove an electron from a neutral atom in its ground state.

Atomic data

 
Atomic radius, non-bonded (Å) 2.11 Covalent radius (Å) 1.36
Electron affinity (kJ mol−1) 125.624 Electronegativity
(Pauling scale)
1.93
Ionisation energies
(kJ mol−1)
 
1st
730.995
2nd
2072.26
3rd
3360.58
4th
-
5th
-
6th
-
7th
-
8th
-
 

Glossary

Data for this section been provided by the British Geological Survey.


Relative supply risk

An integrated supply risk index from 1 (very low risk) to 10 (very high risk). This is calculated by combining the scores for crustal abundance, reserve distribution, production concentration, substitutability, recycling rate and political stability scores.


Crustal abundance (ppm)

The number of atoms of the element per 1 million atoms of the Earth’s crust.


Recycling rate

The percentage of a commodity which is recycled. A higher recycling rate may reduce risk to supply.


Substitutability

The availability of suitable substitutes for a given commodity.
High = substitution not possible or very difficult.
Medium = substitution is possible but there may be an economic and/or performance impact
Low = substitution is possible with little or no economic and/or performance impact


Production concentration

The percentage of an element produced in the top producing country. The higher the value, the larger risk there is to supply.


Reserve distribution

The percentage of the world reserves located in the country with the largest reserves. The higher the value, the larger risk there is to supply.


Political stability of top producer

A percentile rank for the political stability of the top producing country, derived from World Bank governance indicators.


Political stability of top reserve holder

A percentile rank for the political stability of the country with the largest reserves, derived from World Bank governance indicators.


Supply risk

 
Relative supply risk 6.2
Crustal abundance (ppm) 0.055
Recycling rate (%) >30
Substitutability Low
Production concentration (%) 19
Reserve distribution (%) 23
Top 3 producers
  • 1) Mexico
  • 2) Peru
  • 3) China
Top 3 reserve holders
  • 1) Peru
  • 2) Poland: Chile
Political stability of top producer 22.6
Political stability of top reserve holder 20.3
 

Glossary


Common oxidation states

The oxidation state of an atom is a measure of the degree of oxidation of an atom. It is defined as being the charge that an atom would have if all bonds were ionic. Uncombined elements have an oxidation state of 0. The sum of the oxidation states within a compound or ion must equal the overall charge.


Isotopes

Atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons.


Key for isotopes


Half life
  y years
  d days
  h hours
  m minutes
  s seconds
Mode of decay
  α alpha particle emission
  β negative beta (electron) emission
  β+ positron emission
  EC orbital electron capture
  sf spontaneous fission
  ββ double beta emission
  ECEC double orbital electron capture

Oxidation states and isotopes

 
Common oxidation states 2, 1
Isotopes Isotope Atomic mass Natural abundance (%) Half life Mode of decay
  107Ag 106.905 51.839
  109Ag 108.905 48.161
 

Glossary


Specific heat capacity (J kg−1 K−1)

Specific heat capacity is the amount of energy needed to change the temperature of a kilogram of a substance by 1 K.


Young's modulus

A measure of the stiffness of a substance. It provides a measure of how difficult it is to extend a material, with a value given by the ratio of tensile strength to tensile strain.


Shear modulus

A measure of how difficult it is to deform a material. It is given by the ratio of the shear stress to the shear strain.


Bulk modulus

A measure of how difficult it is to compress a substance. It is given by the ratio of the pressure on a body to the fractional decrease in volume.


Vapour pressure

A measure of the propensity of a substance to evaporate. It is defined as the equilibrium pressure exerted by the gas produced above a substance in a closed system.

Pressure and temperature data – advanced

 
Specific heat capacity
(J kg−1 K−1)
235 Young's modulus (GPa) 82.7
Shear modulus (GPa) 30.3 Bulk modulus (GPa) 103.6
Vapour pressure  
Temperature (K)
400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 2200 2400
Pressure (Pa)
- - 1.27
x 10-7
0.000603 0.165 7.61 131 - - - -
  Help text not available for this section currently

History

Slag heaps near ancient mine workings in Turkey and Greece prove that silver mining started around 3000 BC. The metal was refined by cupellation, a process invented by the Chaldeans, who lived in what is now southern Iraq. It consisted of heating the molten metal in a shallow cup over which blew a strong draft of air. This oxidised the other metals, such as lead and copper, leaving only silver unaffected.

The rise of Athens was made possible partly through the exploitation of local silver mines at Laurium. These operated from 600 BC and right through the Roman era. In Medieval times, German mines became the main source of silver in Europe.

Silver was also mined by the ancient civilizations of Central and South America there being rich deposits in Peru, Bolivia and Mexico.
  Help text not available for this section currently

Podcasts

Listen to Silver Podcast
Transcript :

Chemistry in its element: silver


(Promo)

You're listening to Chemistry in its element brought to you by Chemistry World, the magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

(End promo)

Chris Smith

Hello! Welcome to Chemistry in its element. This week, we're demystifying the element behind the photograph and to cross your cognitive palm with silver, here's Victoria Gill.

Victoria Gill

Its lustre shine has been coveted since ancient times. It's not just rare or precious, as its more expensive cousin, gold, but there is evidence from as early as 3000 BC that humans extracted silver from naturally occurring silver sulphide deposits in rocks to make coins and jewellery. These coins actually form the basis for the economies of some ancient Mediterranean civilizations. It's a soft and pliable metal with a relatively low melting point and that means it can be hammered and moulded into shape, so the same metal that was used to make money that was gradually outdated could also be transformed into vases, platters, cutlery and goblets; tableware that has created displays of household wealth through the centuries. But a gleaming collection of silverware isn't easy to maintain. The metal reacts with sulphur in the air, rapidly forming a dull, dark silver sulphide tarnish that has to be polished off. So it's a high maintenance element; another reason why it has always been outshone by gold. But the same chemical properties that tarnished its image let it to make another mark in history, by allowing history itself to be recorded in the photograph.

In 1727, a German physicist called Johann Heinrich Schulze found that a paste of chalk and silver nitrate salt was blackened by light. He used stencils to produce black images with the paste. This reaction, the dawn of photography, was all thanks to the fact that silver salts are sensitive to light. A photon of light hitting the negative nitrate anion frees an electron, which ultimately combines with the positive silver ions to make neutral silver metal, darkening the surface of the material. When in 1840, Henry Talbot discovered an additional chemical twist, that is so called latent silver image, that had been briefly exposed onto a layer of silver iodide could be revealed using gallic acid, the effect was seen as magical, a devilish art. But this mystical development of an invisible picture was a simple reduction reaction; the gallic acid helping to reduce photosensitized silver ions into silver metal. Hollywood could never have existed without the chemical reaction that gave celluloid film its ability to capture the stars and bring them to the aptly dubbed silver screen.

Digital photography may now have eclipsed the silver image, but the metal's ability to conduct has given it an important role in the digital age. Silver is used on circuit boards and in batteries, where the conduction speed is needed that copper for example, can't quite deliver. Even its most outdated properties are making resurgence. With new antibiotics running thin, a few researchers are returning to silver as a coating to keep the bugs at bay. Silver metal is toxic to nasty bacteria, but not to us and there is even a tiny amount of it in our bodies, but that's yet to give up the secret of why it's there. For me, rather superficially, it's always been gold's subtler, prettier counterpart.

Chris Smith

Victoria Gill uncovering the secrets of the element that gave us the silver screen. Next time on Chemistry in its element, John Emsley introduces a chemical that's mostly fallen from favour, perhaps with good reason.

John Emsley

This trouble-making element has attacked the ozone layer, and its mere presence has caused entire reservoirs to be drained.

Chris Smith

And you can hear John Emsley telling the story of the brown element, bromine, on next week's Chemistry in its element. I'm Chris Smith, thank you for listening. See you next time.

(Promo)

Chemistry in its element is brought to you by the Royal Society of Chemistry and produced by thenakedscientists.com. There's more information and other episodes of Chemistry in its element on our website at chemistryworld.org/elements.

(End promo)
  Help text not available for this section currently
  Help Text

Resources

Description :
Discover the chemistry and history behind the Gold, Silver and Bronze Olympic medals.
Description :
In this experiment you will be looking at the properties of silver compounds.
Description :
An introduction to copper refining
Description :
The halogens are elements of Group 7 of the Periodic table. This experiment illustrates some of the trends within the compounds of this group. It is ideal for discussing ionic equations, making predic...
Description :
Assessment for Learning is an effective way of actively involving students in their learning. This is a series of plans based around chemistry topics.
Description :
When concentrated hydrochloric acid is added to a very dilute solution of copper sulfate, the pale blue solution slowly turns yellow-green on the formation of a copper chloride complex. When concentr...
 

Terms & Conditions


Images © Murray Robertson 1999-2011
Text © The Royal Society of Chemistry 1999-2011

Welcome to "A Visual Interpretation of The Table of Elements", the most striking version of the periodic table on the web. This Site has been carefully prepared for your visit, and we ask you to honour and agree to the following terms and conditions when using this Site.


Copyright of and ownership in the Images reside with Murray Robertson. The RSC has been granted the sole and exclusive right and licence to produce, publish and further license the Images.


The RSC maintains this Site for your information, education, communication, and personal entertainment. You may browse, download or print out one copy of the material displayed on the Site for your personal, non-commercial, non-public use, but you must retain all copyright and other proprietary notices contained on the materials. You may not further copy, alter, distribute or otherwise use any of the materials from this Site without the advance, written consent of the RSC. The images may not be posted on any website, shared in any disc library, image storage mechanism, network system or similar arrangement. Pornographic, defamatory, libellous, scandalous, fraudulent, immoral, infringing or otherwise unlawful use of the Images is, of course, prohibited.


If you wish to use the Images in a manner not permitted by these terms and conditions please contact the Publishing Services Department by email. If you are in any doubt, please ask.


Commercial use of the Images will be charged at a rate based on the particular use, prices on application. In such cases we would ask you to sign a Visual Elements licence agreement, tailored to the specific use you propose.


The RSC makes no representations whatsoever about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this Site for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without any representation or endorsement made and warranty of any kind, whether expressed or implied, including but not limited to the implied warranties of fitness for a particular purpose, non-infringement, compatibility, security and accuracy.


In no event shall the RSC be liable for any damages including, without limitation, indirect or consequential damages, or any damages whatsoever arising from use or loss of use, data or profits, whether in action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the material available from this Site. Nor shall the RSC be in any event liable for any damage to your computer equipment or software which may occur on account of your access to or use of the Site, or your downloading of materials, data, text, software, or images from the Site, whether caused by a virus, bug or otherwise.


We hope that you enjoy your visit to this Site. We welcome your feedback.

References

 
Visual Elements images and videos
© Murray Robertson 2011.

 

Data

W. M. Haynes, ed., CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, CRC Press/Taylor and Francis, Boca Raton, FL, 95th Edition, Internet Version 2015, accessed December 2014.
Tables of Physical & Chemical Constants, Kaye & Laby Online, 16th edition, 1995. Version 1.0 (2005), accessed December 2014.
J. S. Coursey, D. J. Schwab, J.J. Tsai, and R. A. Dragoset, Atomic Weights and Isotopic Compositions(version 3.0), 2010, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, accessed December 2014.
T. L. Cottrell, The Strengths of Chemical Bonds, Butterworth, London, 1954.

 

Uses and properties

John Emsley, Nature’s Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements, Oxford University Press, New York, 2nd Edition, 2011.
Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility - Office of Science Education, It’s Elemental - The Periodic Table of Elements, accessed December 2014.
Periodic Table of Videos, accessed December 2014.

 

Supply risk data

Derived in part from material provided by the British Geological Survey © NERC.

 

History text

© John Emsley 2012.

 

Podcasts

Produced by The Naked Scientists.

 

Periodic Table of Videos

Created by video journalist Brady Haran working with chemists at The University of Nottingham.
  • LearnChemistry
  • Download our free Periodic Table app for mobile phones and tablets now.
  • Google play
  • App Store