Physical Indium prices climb

IndiumA market source mentioned on Friday, September 6, 2013 “Indium prices rose by $10 per kg as consumers accepted higher prices in the absence of offers from the Chinese”.

China’s domestic prices remained elevated on the Fanya exchange, and stock levels have tightened in other countries as zinc producers reduced offers.

More than 60% of the production of Indium comes from China, the biggest supplier. The largest deposits of the world’s reserves are also found there, an estimated 8,000 of a total of 11,000 tonnes.

The first industrial applications for Indium came during World War II. Indium forms an even, ultra-thin surface on many substrates including metal. Engine manufacturers began coating critical bearings in high-performance engines with indium because the ultra smooth surface moved lubricants around evenly.  Indium is still used in engine bearings today. Wind turbines are a good example of this in the clean energy industry.

The metal provides a conductive transparent coating on metal, glass, and other substrates. This property makes indium compounds essential in the manufacture of semiconductors. Those semiconductors are useful in the manufacture of thousands of components including LEDs, cell phones, PDAs, cameras, watches, and flat screen televisions. They are also useful in the creation of thin film solar cells.

Indium’s unique properties make it useful in cryogenics processing as a vacuum seal and a thermal conductor. The malleable nature of the metal makes it a good material to put between a microprocessor and a heat sink in computers. It will fill in any microscopic gaps and promote efficient heat transfer. This property is also useful in ultra-high vacuum applications.

Harkening back to its World War II industrial roots, Indium plays a significant role in defense manufacture. Trace amounts are found in night vision technology, target recognition devices, and high speed imaging. All of these components are essential for modern combat.

As you can see, indium plays a significant role in industries like electronics, consumer goods, defense, and clean energy. Because almost 60 percent of the indium produced in the world comes from China, prices can rise and fall often. However, due to its role in so many industries and the demand in the developing world, the price for this metal continues to rise globally over the long term. It is among the best investments in rare technological metals currently on the market. Below is an article discussing another use for Indium to fix defects in nanocrystal thin films.

Nanocrystal-Based Electronics Repaired With Indium

This array of nanocrystal transistors performs better after an indium treatment fixes defects caused by exposure to air.

NanoTo build components for improved light-emitting diodes, solar cells, and other electronics, engineers want to use flexible thin films made from semiconductor nanocrystals. Many of these materials unfortunately pick up performance-dwindling defects when exposed to air or solvent, making them incompatible with large-scale fabrication methods. A new treatment infusing the films with indium fixes the problem and could help move nanocrystal-based electronics out of the lab and into broad commercial applications.

A team led by Cherie R. Kagan of the University of Pennsylvania developed the repair technique while working with cadmium selenide nanocrystals, one of the most intensely studied types of nanocrystals. The materials are already used in a few commercial applications. The company QD Vision, for example, has partnered with Sony to sell a CdSe-based display that produces a greater color gamut than is possible with traditional displays.

Nanocrystals are favored materials in electronics because their high surface-area-to-volume ratio enhances their reactivity. But that reactivity typically is short-lived—exposure to air and solvents leads to surface defects that ultimately impede performance. Engineers must fabricate devices with the materials under an inert atmosphere and in dry conditions, which often aren’t compatible with large-scale fabrication techniques.

Kagan’s group thought it could fix the defects with indium, a metal commonly used to dope electronic materials to improve their performance. They envisioned that the indium atoms would bind with the films’ surfaces, replacing oxygen and other molecules responsible for the defects. “If you think of a defect as a hole you have to plug,” Kagan says, “the indium comes in and fills that spot.”

The treatment step is simple: The team evaporates indium metal in the presence of the nanocrystal thin films and then heats the films. Thin-film transistors made using CdSe and infused with indium outperformed untreated transistors in a number of electrical performance tests. For example, electron mobility in the treated films was about 50 times greater than in the untreated ones. On the basis of data from voltammetry and ultraviolet-visible spectroscopy, the researchers concluded that the indium treatment repairs the thin films by forcing oxygen and water molecules to desorb from the films’ surfaces.

Kagan says future work will include using the indium fix with more complex circuitry and using nanocrystals other than CdSe.

Prior to this work, says Dmitri V. Talapin, a nanomaterials chemist at the University of Chicago, it was unclear whether nanocrystal-based devices could move beyond a lab curiosity and into real-world applications. “This work convincingly shows that these things can operate in air,” he says.

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The above story is reprinted from an article published by Chemical & Engineering News. The original article was written by Kate Green.
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