Indium Prices Increase

Indium is a key metal component in manufacturing liquid crystal display panels. Indium is used to produce indium tin oxide (ITO). Prices for indium has dropped to $720-$760 per kilogram, a major drop from $1000 in May, just a few months ago. This price drop was the result of Chinese “distressed selling”. Total consumption numbers are hard to come by.

ITO is a transparent conductive oxide (TCO) and when applied as a thin coating will be transparent to visible light with wavelengths between 0.4 and 0.8 microns and electrically conductive. About 45% of all indium is used in ITO and virgin indium is produced in these countries (production figures in 2002):

Australia – ?? (Amac Alloys)
Belgium – 40mt
Bolivia – ??
Canada – 45mt (Falconbridge, Teck Cominco)
China – 85mt (Changsha Fengchao Pigment Chemical, Dongwu Nonferrous Metals Mine, Huludao Zinc Industry Company, Liuzhou China Tin Group, Jiangxi Copper Company, Nanjing Germanium Plant, Tianjin Indium Products Company, Yunnan Tin Company, Zhuzhou Smelter)
Dominican Republic
France – 65mt
Germany – ?? (Fremat, HEK, PPM Pure Metals)
Italy – ??
Japan – 60mt (Asahi Pretec Corp., Dowa Mining Co., Japan Energy Corp., Mitsui Mining and Smelting Co., Shinko Chemical Co., Sumitomo Electric Industries, Sumitomo Metal Mining Co.)
Kazakhstan – ??
Namibia – ??
Netherlands – ??
Peru – 5mt
Russia – 15mt
South Korea
Taiwan – ??
Ukraine – ??
United Kingdom – ??
USA – ?? (AIM Inc., Alfa Aesar, Belmont Metals Inc., Indium Corp. of America, McP Metalspecialities Inc., Umicore Indian Products)
Uzbekistan – ??

Virgin indium is only recovered as a by-product of metals such as lead and zinc. After 2002, France’s Metaleurop indium refinery with a 65mt/year capacity closed. Zinc’s low prices have reduced zinc production that has led to supply limitations. In China, severe mining accidents have shut down some Chinese operations: Liuzhou Zing Group is considering a total stop in production, taking out a 25mt/year supply. Even though supply is limited, because only a small portion of the ITO target is used during sputtering, up to 80% can be recycled.

Indium is used as a doping agent for the fabrication of compound semiconductors, indium-based compounds in laser diode applications, photodetectors, fiber optic telecommunications, LEDs (indium-based red-green LEDs, indium-based blue-green LEDs, ultra-violet LEDs, white LEDs), thin-film photovoltaic cells, high-efficiency multijunction devices, optoelectronic integrated circuits (OEICs).


ITO at 100nm


ITO at 50nm


ITO at 10nm

Advanced Nanomaterials began offering ITO as AdNano and is in the qualification phase for different applications. A related metal, zinc oxide, will be produced at a 100 metric ton annual capacity beginning in 2007 due to a new reactor at Advanced Nanomaterials. ITO is transparent, has electrical conductivity, and absorbs infrared radiation that can be used to reduce solar radiation in automobile windshields and building windows to reduce energy consumption. ITO can be added to paints and coatings to produce anti-static and highly transparent surfaces.

ITO layers can even be used for flexible/rollable displays. Currently ITO layers are sputter coated on rigid glass substrates that leads to limited mechanical flexibility. With ink-jet printing technologies, the deposition process can be replaced with a simple printing process using flexible substrates such as plastic that allow more freedom of design.

Another supplier of ITO is Umicore. According to Umicore, ITO is not only used for manufacturing flat panel displays but solar cells, touch screens, architectural glass with solar control, antistatic glass, smart windows, electromagnetic shielding and DNA-selecting chips.

Source: Reuters, Azonano, Umicore, the-infoshop.com, Kemco International Associates, Nanophase

[tags]Indium, Advanced Nanomaterials, ITO, Indium Tin Oxide, AdNano, Umicore, Transparent Conductive Oxide, TCO[/tags]

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