This blog highlights information and data I have found on the Internet related to indium uses, prices, and production. Key blog objectives are to present an indium 2018 global production amount and the amount of global revenues represented by the sale of this production.
Uses. As for other metals, indium’s physical properties account for how it is used. For example, as a metal with a low melting point and stickiness (bonding) to itself and other metals, indium is used as a solder. This good bonding property along with being a good electrical conductor accounts for indium’s use as a conductive transparent film on electrical device screens and solar panels (in combination with tin oxides and with copper, gallium, and selenide). This use as opto-conducting coating material accounts for 60 to 70% of global indium use. Other uses include: in semiconductors; as an alarm trigger in fire sprinkler systems (due to its melting point range); as a corrosive-resistant coating on such devices as bearings; and for measuring thermal neutron flux in nuclear reactors.
Prices. The average global price of indium during 2018 has been put at $310 per kilogram (kg). This represents an increase over the indium 2017 prices (e.g., a range of $190 to $290 per kg.)
Production. Indium is produced as a by-product of mostly the mining of zinc (and lesser amounts of other major metals such as cooper). For this reason, indium production is constrained by scheduled mining activities of zinc (and other major metals). Estimates are that in 2018 approximately 750 metric tons (mt) of indium was refined from mined ores. In addition to this, in the mining process, wastes are generated containing indium and these wastes were further processed to recover amounts of indium contained in them. This further processing accounted for an additional approximate 1,000 mt, for a total of 2018-produced indium of 1,750 metric tons. With an average 2018 price of $310 per kg and 1,750 mt produced, potential revenues generated by indium sales in 2018 would have been $543 million ($310 per kg X 1,750 mt X 1kg/0.001 mt). Estimated global reserves of indium are 50,000 mt, suggesting concerns about enough supplies over the long-term. Indium has been listed as a critical element for national purposes by both the United States and the European Union. For these reasons, much interest exists in developing processes for recovering indium from screen-containing electrical devices, which represent 60 to 70% of global indium used (see Uses above). Click here (pdf file), here, and here (pdf file) for details that reflect the needs, interest, and activities in developing indium recovery from electronic devices.