Indium

Properties and Uses

Indium is a soft, gray metallic element with a bright lustre and a very low melting point. It is relatively rare and ranks 61st in crustal abundance. It is about three times as abundant as silver.

Indium is used in the production of flat screen displays (e.g. Plasma and LCD televisions, mobile phone screens and laptop computers). About 15% of indium produced is used to make electrical components.These are mainly used in infrared detectors, high speed transistors and photovoltaic devices. Indium’s very low melting point and ability to conduct electricity make it an important ingredient in many low temperature solders and alloys. About 12% of indium consumption goes to alloys and solders.

Indium is also used in thin film coatings applied to glass and the production of Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS), a thin film semiconductor material which is used in solar cells as an alternative to silicon.

Demand Factors

Demand for indium is expected to increase as markets for LCD products continue to grow at 25% to 35% per annum. In addition, commercial production of CIGS photovoltaic solar cells has the potential to significantly increase demand.

The potential launch of a new fund, SMG Indium Resources, which has applied to the US Securities and Exchange Commission for a listing in the US could be a new demand source for the indium market. This fund has been formed to buy and stockpile indium.

Supply Factors

Indium is produced as a by product of zinc and tin mining. There are no indium mines in the world and as a result it is difficult to increase indium production without an increase in the production of zinc or tin. The recent decline in the zinc prices is expected to reduce the supply of indium. China currently produces about 60% of the world’s indium supply. Other major producing countries include Canada, USA, Peru and Russia. Recycling is also a major source of indium.

Pricing

The price of indium has risen from a low point of US$97/kg in 2002 to a high of US$918/kg in 2006. Since 2006 prices have stabilised around the US$800/kg mark though in July 2008 prices have weakened to around US$525/kg.

The price of indium has risen from a low point of US$97/kg in 2002 to a high of US$918/kg in 2006. Since 2006 prices have stabilised around the US$800/kg mark though in July 2008 prices have weakened to around US$525/kg.

Source: USGS.

Last updated: 4th August 2008