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Nanotechnology Report

Chinese Indium Strategies: Threats and Opportunities for Displays, Photovoltaics and Electronics

Category: Materials Published: Mar 2011 View Contents
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Electronic copies include a five user licence. Contact andrew.stewart@nano.org.uk for more information.

China accounts for almost three-quarters of world Indium reserves and about half its Indium production; it therefore has enormous market power. And China is willing to use it. Although less reported than China’s activity to restrict the export of rare earths, the Chinese government has recently cut export quotas on indium. And it seems certain that from here on out, China will treat its Indium supply as a key strategic asset to be manipulated for the nation's geopolitical gain.

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This situation is already beginning to worry Japanese display makers and in many ways it couldn’t have come at a worse time for users of all kinds and nationalities. The indium tin oxide (ITO) component in display bills-of-materials is already a cost burden and just at a time when, flat panel display prices are falling rapidly. Also, while manufacturers of CIS/CIGS solar panels are hoping that 2011 will be the year that the many theoretical advantages of CIS/CIGS will be recognized by the PV marketplace, they may be burdened by higher prices for Indium, a core material. Much the same situation can be found in the networking business where Indium Phosphide electronics is rapidly attracting attention as the way forward for high-speed chips.

This report analyzes China’s current Indium strategies and projects what its next moves might be. In doing this we provide more certainty to a market that is riddled with political risk and has of late seen public squabbles between Chinese suppliers and users all over the world about prices should be for Indium.

But the main goal of this report is to show how we expect the user community to adjust to Chinese indium strategies and what opportunities that will create. Will Korean and other Indium suppliers rush to fill a surge in demand for Indium? Will end users grumble, but then go right on using higher priced Chinese indium? Or will Chinese maneuvers boost markets for non-Indium alternatives; non-ITO transparent conductors, CdTe PV and GaAs chips, for example.

Activities in the Chinese Indium industry have the potential to have a ripple effect through display, PV and electronics businesses everywhere. In this report we discuss how the likely scenarios will play out and how the future development of the Chinese Indium industry will impact the worldwide electronics and PV industries. In addition to the overall market analysis, we also examine the current strategies of some of the leading Chinese Indium suppliers as well as how the Chinese government and financial industry is likely to support China’s Indium suppliers (of which there are about 100) in the coming years.

We have used both English- and Chinese- language sources to compile the report, and our findings will be of importance to business development and marketing executives in the display, PV and semiconductors industries as well as investors. We bring to this study its many years of following the transparent conductor, display and photovoltaics markets at both the applications and materials level. Our analysts have also had considerable experience with understanding the InP chip business. Where appropriate, this report cites our extensive estimates and forecasts of the markets impacted by Chinese indium supplies.

China accounts for almost three-quarters of world Indium reserves and about half its Indium production.