Chances are you own plenty of items that owe their fabrication to the unique properties of silver catalysts.
A catalyst is a substance that facilitates a chemical process without itself undergoing any transformation. Because of its unique chemical properties, silver is an important catalyst in the production of two major industrial chemicals. Because the silver is not affected by the reaction, it is almost completely recovered after it is used.
More than 150 million ounces of silver are used each year to produce ethylene oxide and formaldehyde, both of which are essential ingredients in plastics. Approximately 90% of the silver employed as an industrial catalyst is used for the production of ethylene oxide from ethylene. Ethylene oxide is the foundation for plastics including polyester, the textile used in both mainstream fashion and specialty clothing. This same substance is an ingredient in molded items like insulating handles for stoves, key tops for computers, electrical control knobs, domestic appliance components, and electrical connector housings. About 25% of ethylene oxide production is used to produce antifreeze coolant for automobiles and other vehicles.
Formaldehyde, a chemical produced from methanol, is the building block of solid plastics adhesives, laminating resins for construction plywood and particle board. Formaldehyde also helps to produce finishes for paper and electronic equipment, textiles, surface coatings that resist heat and scratches, dinnerware and buttons, casings for appliances, handles and knobs, packaging materials, automotive parts, thermal and electrical insulating materials, toys and many other products.