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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Iridium soars on high-tech gadget demand

The Financial Times
May 16, 2011

The popularity of smartphones, tablets and flatscreen televisions has triggered a 150 per cent jump in the price of a little-known metal used in the manufacture of backlit screens.

Demand for iridium, one of the earth’s rarest metals, more than quadrupled last year, according to Johnson Matthey, the precious metals refiner that compiles benchmark supply and demand statistics on the market.

The sudden rush of buying in the tiny market has sent the price of iridium soaring to an all-time high above $1,000 a troy ounce. The 150 per cent surge in prices since the start of 2010 dwarfs the rallies in silver, gold, platinum and palladium. The market for iridium is very small, less than $500m a year compared with $30bn for silver and $10bn for platinum, but the metal is crucial for some new technologies.

Most important, iridium is used in crucibles for growing crystals that are used in the manufacture of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These, in turn, form the basis of backlit screens, which are essential in devices such as iPads and flatscreen TVs.


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