Uses of Silver Oxide

By Mike Charmaine

Silver oxide is a chemical compound. This fine dry powder with a brownish-black color is primarily used in the preparation of other silver compounds. It is a three-dimensional polymer (i.e. chemical compound consisting essentially of repeating structural units) and is not readily soluble in most solvents. Although silver oxide hydrolyzes only slightly in water, it gives the water a distinctive metallic taste. However, silver oxide is soluble in dilute nitric acid and is easily attacked by acids. Like other silver compounds, silver oxide is not light sensitive and decomposes at temperatures above 280 degrees Celsius.

Laboratory Reagent

Silver oxide is used as a reagent in laboratory reactions to form various chemical compounds. It dissolves in ammonium hydroxide solutions to give soluble derivatives. Also, silver oxide reacts with alkali chloride solutions to yield alkali hydroxide. It is often employed in the synthesis of transition metal-carbene complexes (i.e. organometallic compound featuring a divalent organic ligand). For example, silver oxide readily reacts with ligand precursors to form the corresponding complexes.

Carbon Dioxide Scrubber

Silver oxide is very effective in removing (or scrubbing) carbon dioxide from humidified air (humidity greater than 25 percent). This property is extensively used in nuclear submarines, the international space station and space shuttles. Silver oxide reacts with carbon dioxide in the presence of water to generate silver carbonate. It is capable of regenerating all the scrubbed carbon dioxide by prolonged heating, which enables each canister (a perforated metal box that absorbs airborne poisons and irritants) to be recycled about 60 times.

In the Manufacture of Pollution Control Filter

Silver oxide is used in the manufacture of filters for gas sensors. This filter helps increase the efficiency of chlorine dioxide detectors to free the gas stream from hydrogen sulfides without producing any unwanted compounds.

In the Preparation of Silver Powder

Silver oxide acts as a catalyst in the preparation of silver powder. If heated above 280 degrees Celsius, silver oxide is converted into silver powder while releasing oxygen gas as a by-product.

In the Manufacture of Silver Oxide Batteries

Silver oxide and zinc form the main components of a silver oxide battery (also called silver –zinc battery). While silver oxide acts as the positive electrode (cathode), zinc behaves as the negative electrode (anode). Unlike its competitor counterparts, a silver oxide battery has higher durability, can handle higher current loads, and is free from thermal runaways and inflammability. Such batteries are used in electronic devices as well as U.S. military and Apollo space programs.

Antimicrobial Agent

Silver oxide has enhanced antimicrobial properties and is often used in the manufacture of some infection-resistant surgical fabric materials and fibrous textile articles. It is also used in concrete and in some swimming pools and spas to protect the water from undesired microbes.