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Offline kephra

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4) Colloidal Silver Chemistry
« on: November 03, 2012, 09:43:39 AM »
Colloidal Silver Chemistry
Copyright © 2011,  W. G. Peters, Updated 04/07/2016

Colloidal Silver is a popular home remedy for a host of ailments. It can be purchased at health food stores, and of course on the internet. It is expensive though considering a pennies worth of silver may cost $10.

For that reason, many people attempt to make it themselves through a simple process of electrolysis. The most common method is simply to put two silver wires into a glass of water and connect the wires to a couple of 9 volt batteries. There are two important variations in the process though, one very good, and one very bad. There are much better ways to make colloidal silver, which are covered in another article.

So what do most people actually make and call Colloidal Silver?

Well, that depends on the method they use. Here are the three main methods I hear of people using and the method most researchers use:

I) Distilled water + silver anode at room temperature.

In this method, free hydroxyl ions (OH-) in the water initially react with the positive silver electrode to make silver hydroxide (AgOH). Starting with pure water, and pure silver, Silver hydroxide is the only product that can be initially made.  Silver hydroxide is unstable though and rapidly decomposes to silver oxide Ag2O. If you remember your high school chemistry, the reaction forumula would be:

2AgOH –> Ag2O + H2O

Silver Oxide is slightly soluble in water, and after electrolyzing for a while you have an ionic silver solution, not colloidal silver. You can prove that silver ions exist at this point by adding a small amount of table salt as a test. The salt will form silver chloride which will precipitate out to form a cloudy liquid because the solubility of silver chloride is 25 times less than silver oxide.1

If the electrolysis is continued, the silver oxide will reach saturation, and then will start to precipitate as colloidal silver oxide. At this point, the solution will start to show the Tyndall effect. This is not strictly colloidal silver, although it does have anti-microbial properties according to the EPA2 Silver oxide is what gives the solution its metallic taste which is another indication you have made silver oxide instead of colloidal silver.

This is what most people make and erroneously call colloidal silver.  Once swallowed and mixed with hydrochloric stomach acid, the silver oxide reacts with the acid producing silver chloride.   Once absorbed into the bloodstream, it can travel into the skin and other tissues where it can further react with selenium and sulfer compounds forming silver selenide and silver sulfide.  Scanning electron microscopy studies of Argyria victims show that the silver trapped in the skin is predominately silver sulfide and silver selenide, so it is highly likely that ingesting large amounts of ionic silver will eventually lead to Argyria.

II) High Temperature Colloidal Silver method

If the same method as above is performed while the water is close to boiling temperature, an additional reaction happens. Silver Oxide reduces to metallic silver when close to boiling in the absence of free oxygen3 and in the presence of hydrogen gas. Hydrogen gas is generated at the cathode by the reaction of reduced sodium and water or by the electrolysis of water if no sodium is present.   This makes a straw colored colloidal silver product. The yellow color is caused by the plasmon resonance effect of the extremely small metallic silver particles.

The spontaneous reactions that reduces the silver oxide to silver are:
Na+ +e --> Na (metal) (e = electron and comes from the cathode when the sodium ion touches it)
2Na + 2H2O --> 2NaOH + H2 (gas)
Ag2O + H2 --> 2Ag + H2O
This reaction is usually not complete because some of the hydrogen gas is lost by escaping from the water.

The result is then a solution containing very little silver oxide (ionic silver) and a majority of metallic silver particles.

III) Distilled water + salt + silver anode.

Some people add a little table salt to jump start the electrolysis process. This method produces silver chloride, which has very low solubility and thus produces a cloudy solution. Silver chloride is very photosensitive, and is used in the production of photographic paper. When ingested, silver chloride ions travel into the skin, and are photo reduced by sunlight to insoluble silver, or chemically reacted with sulfides and selenides to insoluble silver compounds which then becomes trapped in the skin and cannot be removed.

IV) Reduction of Silver Salts (compounds) with a Reducing Agent
Not many home brewers use this method, but it is the method of choice with professional researchers, as it is quick, highly repeatable, and highly controllable.  The great majority of data showing that silver is effective against pathogens was done using colloidal silver made by the chemical reduction of silver salts (compounds).  This method produces true silver nanoparticles with no ionic content.  Typically, a soluble silver salt, such as silver nitrate is reduced to silver metal particles using an agent such as glucose.  The technique can be combined with home methods easily though just by adding a  small amount of a suitable reducing agent to their water.  Suitable reducing agents for at home use include light corn syrup (glucose maltose mixture), maltose, Golden or King syrup, maltodextrin, or glucose.   These are all foods or food additives, and do not create any toxic byproducts.

V) Electrolysis Combined with a Reducing Agent

This is the method I favor, as it is simple, reliable, uses no toxic chemicals, and produces true silver nanoparticles.  It does require some specialized equipment (quality generator).  Instructions and details can be found in the main site.

Which method is better?

Definitely not method III, with salt. Ingesting silver chloride is simply asking for trouble in my opinion.

Method I, the most common way of making colloidal silver would seem to be safe however the product does not remain silver oxide when ingested. The stomach is a chloride rich environment which will convert silver oxide to silver chloride as soon as it is swallowed. Do people take enough silver oxide to be a problem? I don’t know. Perhaps silver chloride is not readily absorbed by the body, but then why is that the people who developed argyria have used salt to make their colloidal silver? Maybe its simply the dosage.

The best method is one which produces no ionic content,  as true colloidal silver will not react strongly with stomach acid to make silver chloride, and it has an excellent shelf life, even when exposed to light. I have a sample several years old in a clear glass bottle exposed to light every day, and it has not yet degraded.

A recent published report showed that ionic silver is toxic to human cells.  There is no scientific evidence that consuming ionic silver has any benefit, and the anecdotal reports that ionic silver is therapeutic are almost certainly the result of the placebo effect.  That would seem to suggest again that metallic colloidal silver would be the far better choice to take internally.


1) Solubility of silver species
Silver Oxide Approximately 0.00250 g/100 ml (20C)
Silver Chloride Approximately 0.00052 g/100 ml (20C)

2) US EPA Registration Review Schedule: Antimicrobial Pesticides of October, 4, 2006

3) I first discovered this when attempting to make colloidal silver using one submerged silver electrode, and one silver electrode suspended 1/8th inch above the water. I then applied 4000 volts from a transformer to create a plasma arc from the suspended electrode to the water surface. This created a clear colloidal silver (as tested by the salt method). I noticed that after a time, a yellow to brown layer would form at the top of the solution as it heated up from the plasma arc. As the arc continued to heat the solution, the brown layer would grow further down from the top. I did not know why until recently when I found reference to the decomposition of silver oxide to pure silver at boiling temperature in the absence of oxygen.

Colloidal Silver is only a bargain if you make it yourself.