Indium At Your Fingertips; The Go-To Minor Metal For Flat-Panel Displays

June 10, 2013


By all measures, the surplus thrown up by AIM’s figures is truly amazing. And immediately begs the question, Where is it going?

Some indium, according to AIM, will be “stranded” in the ITO recycling loop. And then there is the stockpile of indium metal held by SMG Indium Resources Ltd—as of Feb. 28, 2013, that totaled just more than 47 tons. Then there is the indium metal held by other investors.

But overhanging the market like a monstrous sword of Damocles, the Fanya Metal Exchange in, Kunming, Yunnan, China, was recently reported to have “a stock level…up to as high as 940 tonnes” of the metal. (Ryan’s Notes: Volume 19, No. 21 – May 27, 2013.) Put in context (apparently using any Western figures), this is far more than the whole of China’s production of the metal for a single year!

And while the figures from Indium Corp. describe a significantly larger amount than AIM being consumed in FPD production, they still throw up a cumulative surplus. (The discrepancy in the figures between the two companies may lie in how each treats the consumption of indium in FPD production, perhaps a difference between gross and net consumption of the metal.)

The AIM figures may beg the question of where the surplus is going, but, equally, the Indium Corp. figures—assuming the veracity of the stockpile reports from Fanya—beg the question of when all the indium actually comes.

Whichever set of figures is favored as better reflecting reality, there is no shortage of indium at the moment.

The Prospects For Indium

So, with this Chinese stockpile in mind, what are the prospects for indium? On the face of it, pretty good, if not, necessarily, for its price. There certainly appears to be plenty of the metal to go around.

The market for FPDs looks good, particularly for those with “touch” capability. ITO remains, for the time being anyway, the thin film transparent conducting oxide (TCO) of choice. And development continues with indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO), which provides higher resolution while drawing lower power. (This is not to say that ITO is not facing possible competition, as research continues on the use of graphene, carbon “nano” inks and even antimony tin oxide coatings.)

As always, though, who knows what’s going to happen in the PV market when it comes to CIGS cells? But the LED market certainly holds distinct potential for the metal.

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