FREIBERG, GERMANY–(Marketwire – Mar 22, 2013) – 150 years ago the two scientists, Ferdinand Reich and Hieronymus Theodor Richter of the TU Bergakademie Freiberg in Saxony (Germany), discovered what is today a highly sought after metal during a spectral-analytical examination of the mineral zinc sulfite, the so-called black sphalerite of Freiberg. They recognized an indigo blue spectral line, which had been unknown until then. It was, as the researchers Richter and Reich later stated ‘of such a bright glow, sharpness and consistency that we concluded it to be a so far unknown metal that we would call Indium’. Indium (In) is, next to lithium, gallium, tellurium, selenium, scandium and germanium, which also was discovered at the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, one of the most important ‘high-tech-metals’.
Initiated by the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, today a giant 2m-diameter bronze disk was embedded into the ground of the Freiberg palace square. The monument placed just in front of the castle’s entrance shall serve as a reminder of the discovery of the element. “Until today, our scientists are occupied with Indium and its applications,” states Professor Bernd Meyer, principal of the German Resource University. “Freiberg is the home of solar and semiconductor industries for which Indium plays an integral role.”
The main storage and current production sites of Indium are China (about 340t per year), South Korea (100t), Canada (64t) and Japan (70t). Prices have increased sharply in the past couple of years — from US$60 per kilogram in 2002 to at times more than $800 in 2005, prices have settled today at around $500 per kilogram. Professor Thomas Seifert of the TU Bergakademie explains: “Recycling Indium from electronic waste will, next to mining of Indium-containing sulphide ores, play a key role in maintaining the worldwide supply. In addition, the Ore Mountains as a storage site and potential mining area for Indium are gaining new attention.” For this reason, the TU Bergakademie Freiberg, in May, will open a Biohydrometallurgical Center for Strategic Elements, which will, along the entire value chain, research next to other metals the mining and recycling of Indium.
SOURCE: TU Bergakademie Freiberg