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Indium: HIgh Technology Metal

There have been a variety of people who were key to the development of indium metal in general, and Indium Corporation in particular, over the years.

People such as:

  • Hieronymus Theodor Richter and Ferdinand Reich who discovered indium metal in 1863
  • Daniel Gray, William S. Murray and J. Robert Dyer who formed the original Indium Corporation back in March of 1934 and who hold patents on processes and applications involving indium
  • Frieda Nojeim who joined the company in 1966 and was elected vice president in 1971

 

And, in 1972, Charles E.T. White joined the Indium Corporation as a vice president (he was elected executive vice president in 1981).  I had the pleasure of knowing Mr. White before he retired.  He was indeed a character, but he also knew a LOT about indium.

In 1986 (a lifetime ago in the electronics industry) Mr. White published an article called: Indium: High Technology Metal in Advanced Materials and Processes magazine.  I ran across a copy of it the other day and, after reading it, was interested in how relevant it still is today, even though technology has marched forward.

Of course the physical characteristics of indium are still as valid today as they were then. 

  • Resistance to thermal fatigue
  • High thermal conductivity
  • Wetting of non-metals (glass, quartz, ceramics)
  • Malleability and ductility, even at cryogenic temperatures
  • Electrical conductivity for a variety of screens
  • Indium does not work harden

 

But one might expect the technology described in an article from nearly 30 years ago to have evolved or gone entirely away, resulting in the elimination of the need for the indium.  The truth is, many of applications that Mr. White mentioned still exist today:

  • "Conforming gasket material for cryogenic vessels."
  • "Indium is present in every wristwatch and computer screen that uses a liquid-crystal display."  Okay, so no one wears wristwatches anymore, but the screens on our phones (the new time-telling devices) have indium tin oxide coatings.
  • "...used in lens blocking and in temperature-overload devices such as safety links, fuses and sprinkler plugs."
  • "Many solder alloys containing indium have been developed to take advantage of indium's enhancement of thermal-fatigue resistance, reduced gold scavenging, and resistance to alkaline corrosion."
  • "Glass sealing alloys containing indium ...have been developed for electronic device packaging where high temperatures cannot be used."
  • "Indium's use in solder alloys is likely to increase as specialty solders become more important in electronic assembly techniques."
  • "The whole area of conductive films of indium oxide and indium-tin oxide has good potential for growth.  This includes solar cells: silicon-cell efficiency can be improved with an indium or indium-tin oxide coating."
  • "New applications such as solar cells made of indium-copper-diselenide/cadmium-sulphide are under active development."

 

And while these indium applications still exist today, R&D continues to find new opportunities for this very unique metal.  We have several Research Solder Kits that you can use to evaluate the value of indium in your process.  Just go to our e-commerce page or contact our engineers to see how indium can work for you.

Carol Gowans