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The Uses of Indium are Escalating
There has been news swirling around indium over the last few months. Companies are finding new uses for the metal and the current uses are expanding production. This is all very exciting for the mining industry and exposure of indium in peoples’ portfolios.
Indium has the symbol of In on the periodic table of the elements and has an atomic number of 49. The rare strategic metal was discovered in 1863 by German chemists Ferdinand Reich and Theodor Richter. Indium has a melting point of 156.60 °C (313.88 °F) making it useful in many low melting point applications.
The rare strategic metal is primarily mined in China, Bolivia and Canada. The top refiners of Indium are China, Korea, Japan, Canada, Japan and Belgium. The total refined amount annually is approximately 500 mt. China controls 97% percent of production. If we do not find alternatives to the current mining techniques Indium will continue to be on the critical list of rare strategic metals. Indium is primarily a bi-product of zinc mining. Mining companies are working on ways to extract Indium from tin and copper mining to expand the sources of the metal. At current consumption rates there could be a crisis in the supply of indium in the next ten years. According to the British Geological Survey, indium scores a 6.5 out of 10 on the critical metals list in 2011.
Indium has many uses in the world of technology. Here is a list of the most prominent uses.
- Transparent conductive coating (Touchscreens on Mobile Phones and Ipads) SHARP IGZO
- CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide) Solar Panels
- LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes)
- LCDs (Liquid Crystal Displays)
- Low Pressure Sodium Lamps
- Control rods for nuclear reactors as an alloy with silver and cadmium
- Thermal interface material
Sharp electronics out of Japan just officially announced that they will begin producing IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) screens for Apple (Aapl). It has been rumored for almost a year that the IGZO screens would be used in all future Apple products. These screens boast double the resolution of current screens. Currently Sharp will be producing three screens for Apple. These screens can save up to 90% in power consumption over conventional screens.
- 7in tablet screens 1280X800 pixels resolution (217 pixels per inch)
- 10in notebook screens 2560X1600 pixels resolution (300 pixels per inch)
- 32in LCD screen 3840X2160 pixels resolution (140 pixels per inch)
The first product from Apple that will integrate the new screens is the new Apple Smart TV. Apple has reportedly invested $1.2 Billion in one of Sharp´s manufacturing facilities in China. Sharp expects that the demand for IGZO screens will increase. Over 50% of all indium used is in the manufacturing of LCD displays.
The other technology that is expected to put pressure on the indium market is the CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide) solar panels. Currently CIGS solar panels are the most efficient solar panels on the market. CIGS solar panels can be molded to fit many uses. Companies are designing them to integrate into roofing, glass and metals. Could you imagine what the future holds when buildings turn into solar panels? Companies like Solar Frontier, MiaSole and Avancis are providing the world with CIGS solar panels. According to Lux Research out of Boston the market for CIGS PV installations could more than double by 2015 to $2.315 Billion.
The excitement around the indium market is palpable. If you are a stock trader then the companies above are your best option. If you are looking for a commodities position then you should contact the team at Swiss Metal Assets and store some indium along with other metals in Switzerland. The rare strategic metal is poised to have a strong decade.