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Silver - Nature's Medicine

Microbecide® Special Report

Silver - Nature's Medicine

Silver (Ag) has an atomic number of 47. This means it is the 47th element in the periodic table by atomic weight and contains 47 electrons. It has four filled valence shells and a fifth shell with one electron. In fluids, silver can exist in four basic forms - as a compound, a neutral particle (as in ground silver), a negatively charged aggregate (particle), and a positively charged ion.

Purchase Microbecide™ On-lineFor thousands of years, silver has been highly regarded as a versatile healing tool. While silver's importance as a bactericide has been documented only since the late 1800s, its use in purification has been known throughout the ages.

Silver has been used as a medicine and preservative by many cultures throughout history. Early records indicate that the Phoenicians and Greeks used silver vessels to keep water, wine and vinegar pure during their long voyages.

In ancient Greece, Rome, Phoenicia and Macedonia, silver was used extensively to control infections and spoilage.

Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine," taught that silver healed wounds and controlled disease. Around 400 B.C., he listed as a singular treatment for ulcers "the flowers of silver alone, in the finest powder."

Silver nitrate was described in the contemporary Roman pharmacopoeia. Pliny the Elder, in his survey of the world's knowledge, Natural History (78 A.D.), stated that the slag of silver "... has healing properties as an ingredient in plasters, being extremely effective in causing wounds to close up..."

During the Middle Ages, silver utensils and goblets may have contributed to health as well as wealth. It is widely thought that the wealthy may have obtained a measure of protection from the rampant plagues common to Europe in those centuries, through the use of silver which provided bacteria-free tableware, pacifiers and storage vessels.

In the early American West, pioneers would often put a silver dollar into a jar or container of milk to help keep it fresh without refrigeration. They would also drop silver coins in their barrels of drinking water to combat bacteria and algae.

Settlers in the Australian outback still suspend silverware in their water tanks to retard spoilage.

During the wars with Napoleon, the armies of Tsar Alexander used water casks lined with silver to clean drinking water from rivers and streams. This practice by the Imperial Russian army was common through World War I and continued to be incorporated by some units in the Soviet Army during World War II.

Antimicrobial Properties of Silver

Purchase Microbecide™ On-lineThroughout the last centuries silver has been used as an antimicrobial agent and the efficacy and safety of silver have been well established. The Swiss botanist, von Nageli, recorded one of the amazing discoveries of the 19th Century. Von Nageli described the microbiocidal properties of a metal hydrosol (solution) at minute concentrations.

Today, we know that silver ions rapidly kill microbes in a variety of ways. These include blocking the cell respiration pathway, interfering with components of the microbial electron transport system, binding DNA and inhibiting DNA replication. Silver is unique in its action against microorganisms.

Silver solutions were approved in the 1920s by the US Food and Drug Administration for use as antibacterial agents. Silver sulfadiazine was used by every hospital in North America to prevent bacterial infections in burn victims and allow the body to naturally restore burnt tissue. It was used worldwide under the trade name "Silvadiene."

Increasingly today, wound dressings and other wound care products incorporate a layer of fabric containing silver for prevention of secondary infections.

Hospitals and other medical facilities use climate control system components and ductwork with a coating containing silver to prevent the transmission of bacteria that cause Legionnaires disease.

Surgical gowns and draperies include silver to prevent microbial transmission. Other medical products containing silver are catheters and stethoscope diaphragms.

Silver is being increasingly tapped for its biocidal properties.

Research initiated in the 1990's by the Chinese government through the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing, studied the reaction between bacteria and silver ions.

Their goal was to develop an effective antiseptic that would sanitize almost any surface. They developed a silver / zircon phosphate complex that proved to be an excellent disinfectant with stable, long-term sterilization effects. This silver complex also maintained perfect safety with no toxicity to humans.

The Science and Technology Ministry of China certified the new antimicrobial complex as a "National Key New Product".

Silver - The Natural Antimicrobial

Purchase Microbecide™ On-lineSilver based compounds are being used as a broad-spectrum antimicrobial in several commercial arenas. For instance, Microbecide® Ag+, a Silver Ion Complex, is an example of ionic silver technology deployed for diverse applications in personal, professional, commercial and industrial use. Other areas of use include food contact surfaces, clinical work surfaces, medical wipes and water treatment applications.

The black polyvalent silver oxide [Ag404], a compound unit with two single-charged and two triple-charged silver atoms, is a microcidal compound effective against bacteria, yeast and mold. Tetrasil® is an example of this oxide used in a bactericidal topical ointment. It is also the best choice of relatively inexpensive silver currently available for sanitizing acrylic hot tubs.

The successful preparation of pico-sized silver ions offers additional capabilities in the fight against pathogenic organisms. Recent studies confirm that silver ions are active against bacteria at concentrations as low as one part per billion in pure water.

With the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, ionic silver is being increasingly recognized as a modern medicine.

Silver ions react rapidly with the walls of prokaryotic cells (unicellular organisms having cells lacking membrane-bound nuclei, i.e. bacteria), whereas the membranes of eukaryotic cells (organisms having cells with membrane-bound nuclei, characteristic of all life forms except primitive microorganisms such as bacteria) strongly resist any effect by ionic silver.

To date, reasearchers have found no known pathogenic organisms that have successfully developed immunity to silver ions (Ag+).

Silver in Water Purification

In the 1960's and early 1970's, the Johnson Space Center (in the U.S.) conducted a research program aimed at the development of a small, lightweight water purifier that required minimal power and no human monitoring. This program produced an electrolytic silver ion generator, slightly larger than a pager and weighing only nine ounces.

One or more units, mounted at various locations in the potable water supply and waste water system of a spacecraft, would dispense silver ions sufficient to eliminate bacteria and sanitize the water within hours.

NASA made this design information available to industry and today, ionic silver technology is used in some of the world's most advanced water purification systems. This technology is capable of handling water volumes into the millions of gallons and is used in many different applications.

Purchase Microbecide™ On-linePools, spas, decorative water applications, cooling towers, injection molding systems all routinely use ionization as a means of water sanitation. Ionic silver is employed as a bactericide and algaecide in an ever increasing number of water purification systems in hospitals, remote communities and, more recently, domestic households.

New research into silver compounds is providing physicians with powerful, clinically effective treatments against which bacteria cannot develop resistance.

An increasing trend is the millions of over-the-counter water purifiers that are sold each year to rid drinking water of bacteria, chlorine, trihalomethanes, lead, particulates, and odor. Here silver is used to prevent the buildup of bacteria and algae in the filters.

Of the billions of dollars spent yearly in the United States for drinking water purification systems, over half make advantageous use of the bactericidal properties of silver.

New research has shown that the catalytic action of silver, in concert with oxygen, provides a powerful sanitizer, virtually eliminating the need for the use of corrosive chlorine.

Kraft Pulp Mills Use Silver

The oxidizing power of silver clearly has wide application. An interesting example is the application of silver catalysts to convert waste gas from (U.S. company) Kraft pulp mill operations into valuable industrial chemicals. Emissions from Kraft pulp mills are largely methanol with some organic sulfides and a smaller amount of terpenes (long chain hydrocarbons).

Instead of burning this gas, sorptive resins and molecular sieves capture the terpenes, and the silver catalyst converts the methanol, dimethyl sulfide and other sulfur compounds into formaldehyde, which is treated to reduce acidity to commercial levels, then transported to consumers providing a positive income stream to the mill.


Silver Catalyst Manufacturers - Academy Corp., Albuquerque, NM - Degussa, Hanau, Germany , W.C. Heraeus, gmbh, Hanau, Germany - Scientific Design, Inc., Little Ferry, NJ - Stonehart Associates, Madison, CT - Tanaka Kikinzoku, Indianapolis, IN.
Treating Methanol-Containing Waste Gas Streams, U.S. Patent 5,907,066, May 25, 1999, and Production of Formaldehyde from Methyl Mercaptans, U.S. Patent 5,9969.191, October 19, 1999, I.E. Wachs, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA




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