The Right Stuff
Scientists are looking for a replacement for indium — one of the most important elements in our everyday life
Literally everyone needs Indium. Indium is a metal, which is used to make aircraft portholes, astronomical mirrors, car headlights, fire alarms, diesel engines, photocells, radiopharmaceuticals and many other things. If you take a hammer to a smartphone or even if you take it apart component by component, you'll find inside a compound of Indium and Oxygen and Tin, which is what makes the transparent, electrically conductive touchscreen work properly.

Indium is increasingly in demand and increasingly expensive. But reserves will be exhausted in the next two decades. So what next? Finding a substitute for Indium Oxide alloyed with Tin (In203:Sn02), used in electronic devices, is a particularly urgent task. A substitute is needed in order to go on making the devices we have today and to create the electronics of the future.
The possible substitutes available today leave much to be desired: they aren't flexible, resilient or stable enough, nor are they environment-friendly.

So the search is on. Global gadget manufacturers are hunting for indium, and researchers at Skoltech are looking for "the right stuff": a worthy substitute for In2O3:SnO2.

The findings of their work have been published in the specialized journal Carbon*.

* Alexey P. Tsapenko, Anastasia E. Goldt, Eugene Shulga et al. "Highly conductive and transparent films of HAuCl4-doped single-walled carbon nanotubes for flexible applications". Carbon, 2018, Vol. 130, pp. 448-457.
Drawn by
Ekaterina Usova
Original idea and words by
Svetlana Sokolova-Mikhaylova
main characters
status: Researcher / PhD student
PhD Student at Skoltech, Graduate of Bauman Moscow State Technical University
status: Researcher / Professor
Doctor of Science, Professor at the Center for Photonics and Quantum Materials of Skoltech, Professor at the Department of Applied Physics of Aalto University (Finland).
name: INDIUM OXIDE (In2О3)
status: main hero
Crystalline substance. Compound of oxygen and indium, which is a silvery-white metal, as soft as plasticine. Indium Oxide is used with tin oxide to make a semiconductor material for gadget screens.
status: New-generation material
A rolled sheet of graphene, which is a tough, flexible, stretchable material made from a single layer of carbon atoms
name: TIN OXIDE (SnО2)
status: Indium Oxide's friend
A powder, which is a compound of tin and oxygen. Hard and crystalline in nature