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IYPT Elements

IYPT 2019 Elements 047: Silver: Photography and fighting sock odours

Element 47 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is silver. Silver compounds are key for film photography, and this element also pops up in your clothing: conductive gloves and some antibacterial socks contain it.

For those of us old enough to remember the days when phones with physical keys dominated, touch-screen phones can feel like a step backwards in the winter. The need to wrestle with the choice of having warm hands or being able to check social media updates is removed by conductive gloves containing silver threads. Touch-screens work using electrical conductance, so these allow you to manipulate your device without your fingers freezing off.

Another clothing-based use of silver is in the form of nanoparticles in clothes. Silver nanoparticles have antibacterial properties, so embedding them in socks, for example, can reduce odours resulting from foot bacteria. There are, however, some environmental concerns associated with this usage.

Up until relatively recently, silver’s most significant use was in film photography. Light-sensitive silver halide compounds made film photography possible. Digital photography has now largely taken its place for the majority of us.

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.