NanoMarkets report: CIGS growth not limited by indium supply

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Often touted as the next thin film technology to take on cadmium telluride thin film leader First Solar, copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) technology is set to grow and the use of indium, a key absorber material will grow even faster. In a new report from NanoMarkets entitled ‘Indium Markets for Photovoltaics,’ indium consumption is expected to rise 80% by 2016, equating to 228 metric tons (MT) in 2016, up from the 20MT consumed today. However, the market research firm is forecasting that CIGS PV cells would represent only 8% of PV megawatts in that time.

Unlike the concerns raised over the last few years as to whether there was enough tellurium to meet demand from CdTe PV production, NanoMarkets doesn’t see any shortage of indium to limit CIGS growth.

“As far as a looming shortage of indium, the quick answer is no, we don’t believe a shortage is looming,” noted Paul Markowitz, Senior Analyst at NanoMarkets. “But we do expect price volatility.”

Markowitz also told PV-Tech that the indium market would prove volatile from a pricing perspective as it takes several months to develop new indium capacity. Forthermore, demand spikes can significantly outpace supply, though temporary and not indicative of an actual long-term shortage.

“It is important to note that we are talking about short-term phenomena,” remarked Markowitz. “In the long term, there is plenty of indium available.  Indium is basically a by-product of zinc ore processing and extraction is currently limited by facilities and the economics of the process; sustained higher prices would and have been demonstrated to bring about increased production including from other sources. These other sources include recycling of scrap ITO and extraction from ores of other metals besides zinc.”

NanoMarkets expects a change over time away from the use of sputtering targets and evaporation slugs as lower-cost deposition methods develop. The market research firm expects a shift towards indium salts for electrodeposition and nanoparticles of indium, indium selenide, and indium oxide inks for printing. Printing and electrodeposition will represent close to 28%, or 52.3MT, of the total indium consumption for CIGS PV in 2016.

NanoMarkets also said in the report that indium consumption for ITO in the PV industry will grow from 13MT in 2011 to 39.4MT in 2016.

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