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December 05, 2006


Paul Dietz

It's a shame indium isn't more abundant. This is going to have a hard time really denting global energy demand unless large new supplies become available.

Mark Saint-Vincent

I agree. With so many companies announcing thin-film production intentions, I doubt any of them, especially the late-comers like Shell will succeed unless they are able to secure the material before the others. So many manufactureres chasing a very limited amount of product can only mean higher prices to the consumer.

Paul Dietz

It might barely work out that making the indium by transmutation of cadmium could be feasible. A BotE calculation suggests the amount of electricity produced per indium atom in a 1 micron thick CuInSe2 cell over the life of the cell is on the order of 100 million eV. So if there's a source of cheap neutrons, capture on the fairly abundant isotope 114Cd could make 115Cd, which decays to 115In. The 114Cd would have to be separated from 113Cd if thermal neutrons are used, since the capture cross section of the lighter isotope is much higher.

The cheapest source of neutrons may be large H-bomb explosions, but that's probably way too Strangelovian to be acceptable, at least on this planet. Still, it's been proposed in the past (MICE, for example) to use contained thermonuclear explosions to manufacture isotopes in bulk. Sanity was optional in those days, I guess.

Jeff Becker

These guys seem to think that indium is not so rare, and that "Indium exists in the earth's crust in quantities approximately three times that of silver".


Perhaps it's more a matter of getting at the stuff. I do wonder if the "forecasted demand" mentioned in the above link includes new CIGS solar plants.

Paul Dietz

These guys seem to think that indium is not so rare, and that "Indium exists in the earth's crust in quantities approximately three times that of silver".

The problem is that, like silver, extracting it from the crust at average crustal concentrations wouldn't be economical. You need to extract it from ores, and for indium that means secondary extraction from mines that are primarily producing something else. This makes the supply curve highly inelastic, as the price history of indium over the last five years demonstrates.

I think we'll see more indium recycling; according to the USGS mineral summary for indium the manufacturing process for ITO coatings on glass (used in LC displays) wastes 80% of the element. The rest could be recovered, but currently mostly isn't.

Roger Davis

PV technology seems to be advancing on a number of different fronts very rapidly. My guess is that by the time these manufacturers start scraping the bottom of the indium barrel they will be well down the road to using different materials entirely. Hopefully they make enough $$ off CIGS to get themselves well-capitalized for the next round of materials which will perhaps be more commonplace. Keep the trees *and* the forest in view, IMHO.

Solar panels maryland

I am seeking for the help from some professionals for installing the Solar panels on the roof my home so that I decrease the amount paid for electricity bills.Can you suggest me some option locally.

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