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Indium-Tin Oxide (ITO) Used in Flat-Panel Displays

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  • Indium

  • Phil Zarrow: Jim, let’s talk about the wonderful world of indium-tin oxide (ITO). Obviously, as the name implies, it’s indium, tin, and oxygen in oxide form, but how is it used? What are some of the applications?

    Jim Hisert: Well, indium-tin oxide is used as a clear conductive layer on almost all electronics devices that have a display. It’s used in flat panel televisions, it’s also used for touchscreen devices - a touchscreen, flat panel device could have up to 4 layers of ITO.

    Phil Zarrow: When you’re talking about layers, 4 layers - very, very thin layers at that – the main method of applying this is sputtering I’d assume?

    Jim Hisert: Yes, the sputtering process, and I brought a target to show you!

    Phil Zarrow: Oh, very good.

    Jim Hisert: This is an indium-tin oxide sputtering target. (At this point I revealed the target I had with me. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t carry sputtering targets with me every day. I do, however, always have some indium with me.) It’s a very small model, but this is made out of – originally - indium-tin oxide powder. I brought some of that to show you as well.

    Phil Zarrow: Let’s see what that looks like.

    Jim Hisert: Here is some indium-tin oxide powder… And these [targets] can also be made with indium oxide powder and tin oxide powder. So there are different ways [materials] to make targets, and there are different manufacturing methods to make targets as well.

    Phil Zarrow: So typically in sputtering that target is sacrificial?

    Jim Hisert: Yes, it’s used in very small amounts. It’s sputtered off onto the glass, in the case of a touch screen display, and it’s nanometers thick.

    Phil Zarrow: Now, indium-tin oxide, Indium Corporation – it’s in the company name. How did Indium Corporation actually come to be a leader in this market?

    Jim Hisert: Well, we’ve been working with customers on developing ITO and increasing the density of targets, which is one of the main drivers in the technology. In doing that we have found different powder distributions and morphologies that work the best. We’ve developed with the market, and the market has developed with our products.

    Phil Zarrow: Jim, where can we get more information on indium-tin oxide?

    Jim Hisert: Well, for applications [of ITO], I really like the video you did with Dr. Ron Lasky. In addition to that, I have a blog, and I talk about indium-tin oxide and other indium-related subjects. We also have a specific ITO blog where we talk about target technology. And, you can always contact me at jhisert@indium.com if you have any questions.

    Phil Zarrow: Great! Jim, you are the guru of ITO. Thank you very much.

    Jim Hisert: Thank you Phil.