Silver Refining

Silver is a soft, white in color, and shiny transition metallic chemical element with the highest electrical conductivity and highest thermal conductivity. Silver occurs naturally in its purest form, in minerals like chlorargyrite and argentite, and also as an alloy of gold and various other metals. Most silver is also produced as a by product of lead, copper, gold, and zinc refining. There are three main methods of zinc refining:-

1. Cupellation method - scrap silver and silver ore is taken through the refining process to detach it from the dross. This method entails heating the ore in a special furnace of 1,200 degrees C. Before heating it though, the ore or scrap of silver is put in a solution of 30-35% of nitric acid, which produces silver chloride (a white byproduct powder). Silver chloride is then mixed with sodium carbonate and put in a cupellation furnace to stir a chemical reaction that will make silver and table salt. Note that the process can still go on without adding sodium carbonate although the heat will release a poisonous chlorine gas.

2. Amalgamation method - this method is otherwise known as the patio Process where silver ore is ground to a powder form and then thoroughly mixed with table salt, liquid mercury, and ground roast copper. The mixture is poured on earth and tethered mules are walked over it, upon which they crush it into more little granules. The end product is finally mixed with liquid mercury, distilled and put in a cupellation furnace, which heats it until pure silver is derived. This method is however old-fashioned and new technology refining methods have come up.

3. Electro-refining method - this entails passing an electric current over sulfated copper slime instead of heating it in a furnace of 1,200 degrees. The hydro-metallurgical process ensures silver nitrate dissolves without any need of external heat as the process is able to regulate the concentration of sulfate ions where the silver is put. Advancement of technology has made the electro-refining silver process very possible.

Silver is a treasured precious metal that makes the ornaments you use today, utensils, jewelry, currency coins, and high-valuable tableware. Silver is also used as a catalyst in most chemical reactions, in mirrors, and as electrical conductors and contacts. The compounds of silver on the other hand find their way as microbiocides, disinfectants, and in photographic film. Important to note is that the silver refining process is the same as gold refining process.

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