How to Extract Silver

Unrefined silver
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Things You'll Need

  • Electrolysis machine

  • Caustic solution

  • Waste chemicals

There are several ways to extract silver from other compounds and materials. Most people who are interested in extracting silver are interested in extracting it from used camera film and X-ray film, as well as from waste chemicals used in processing films. If you are looking for a home-based business that has high profit potential, as well as one that will help reduce chemical and physical waste that is buried in landfills, then consider setting up a silver extraction business.

Extract Silver

Step 1

Buy or build an electrolysis machine. This machine will help you to extract silver from your waste chemicals. You can find electrolysis machines in science supply stores, or you can make your own using a 12-volt charger and a rubber tub.

Step 2

Find waste products to extract silver from. You can contact hospitals and imaging companies or place an ad in the local newspaper to collect used film rolls, X-rays and waste photographic chemicals. (Hypo and fixers both contain silver.) You can expect to generate about 0.254 grams of pure silver from each roll of 24-exposure film.

Step 3

Set up your electrolysis station. If you have an electrolysis machine, you will fill the machine with a caustic solution and turn the machine on. If you are working with your homemade electrolysis machine, you will want to place hot water and your caustic solution into your rubber tub, place the charger plates in the solution and turn on the charger.

Step 4

Prep your waste materials for electrolysis. If you are working with waste chemicals, you can just pour them into the electrolysis tank. However, if you are working with films, you will need to burn them before dumping their ashes in the tank.

Step 5

Complete the process of electrolysis. You will dump your prepped waste materials into the electrolysis tank and allow the silver to be leached out by the chemical reactions created by the caustic solution and the electrical current. As the process progresses, you will notice silver flakes developing on the charger plates. This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the voltage and caustic solution you are using. Don't leave your electrolysis machine unattended during this process until you are familiar with how long it takes for the process to complete.

Step 6

Collect your silver. Turn off the charger and remove the plates from the tank. Scrape the silver flakes from the charger plates onto a paper towel. Then use tweezers to move the silver flakes into a glass jar.