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Indium is a critical metal for the indium-tin oxide (ITO) market and other coating applications. Donna Vareha Walsh—director of sales and global supply chain and trade compliance at Indium Corporation—describes the plentiful global supply of indium and its recycling loop, examines indium’s history of price volatility and the market reactions from the recent Fanya Metal Exchange auction, and provides an overview of indium supply and demand drivers, as well as the impact of recycling efforts.
Indium pricing has been steady over the last few years through 2020, even under the pressure of an ongoing global pandemic. This year, indium has averaged $150 to $165 per kg based on Fastmarkets MB’s current market pricing.
Indium has had a volatile past with the increases driven from liquid-crystal display (LCD) growth in the early 2000s, import and export taxes placed on the metal by China, and then the price run-up from the Fanya Metal Exchange. Figure 1 shows a good representation of the prior market volatility that has subsided as we have seen steady prices over the last few years.
Figure 1: Indium metal market prices.
The supply chain of indium is global in nature. Based on the USGS, 760 tons were produced in 2019. Additionally, there is a strong reclaim loop constantly feeding the supply chain.
The demand for indium is mainly in the form of ITO, which is used in LCD screens for flat-panel devices—such as mobile phones, computers, and televisions—and in solder, alloys, electrical components, and semiconductors.
The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for global ITO will increase by 7.7% by 2022, with growth coming primarily from China and South Korea. The main growth drivers for indium demand come from larger screen sizes, television shipments, small moves to organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), growth in quantum dots, and the developed world deployment of 5G. The caveat is, as the price of indium increases, so do the R&D efforts by display companies to use thinner coatings or alternatives.
To read this article, which appeared in the May 2020 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.