Indium from source to sink

Indium is a rare, post‐transition metal used in many modern technologies. Museum scientists are studying this rare E-tech element to determine its mechanisms of fractionation in the crust and surface environment.

Indium is an E-tech element used in liquid crystal display (LCD) screens and photovoltaic solar panels. Despite widespread use indium's supply is considered to be insecure, and we know little about its behaviour in geological and environmental systems. 

This lack of background data limits our understanding of indium's fractionation mechanisms in geological systems and the natural environment. 

Gaps in our knowledge include:

  • general background concentrations of indium in different geological terranes
  • conditions that lead to ore formation
  • metal fluxes into the environment
  • environmental sinks and reservoirs
  • bioavailability and ecotoxicity of the metal 

This lack of knowledge is a major impediment to the effective prospecting and extraction of indium. 

Projects aims

The indium project will identify and address principal gaps in our knowledge of the geology, extraction and environmental dispersal of indium. Our ultimate goals are to:

  • develop robust models for the geological reservoirs of indium
  • establish the principal transfer mechanisms between these reservoirs
  • assess environmental risks, pathways and sinks

Visit the indium project website

Project details

Partners
Camborne School of Mines, University of Exeter
British Geological Survey
University of Bristol
Imperial College

Funding
NERC £88,232

This project is part of the Natural Resources and Hazards Initiative.

Glossary

E-tech elements
Defined by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) as elements that are essential for a technologically advanced and low carbon society, leading to more efficient energy usage. Includes cobalt, gallium, indium, tellurium, lithium and the rare earth elements (REE).