Global substance flow analysis of gallium, germanium, and indium: Quantification of extraction, uses, and dissipative losses within their anthropogenic cycles

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    Abstract

    © 2014 by Yale University. This study provides a global substance flow analysis for gallium (Ga), germanium (Ge), and indium (In) for 2011, quantifying the amount of metal lost during extraction, beneficiation/smelting/refining, manufacturing of intermediate products, and the amount embodied in end-use products. Thus far, studies illustrating their cradle to end-use life cycle on a global scale are either missing or outdated, and thus opportunities to increase their supply remain unknown and/or not quantified. The results illustrate the losses and inefficiencies stages, thereby identifying potential additional supply by process improvement, recovery, and recycling. Results show that there are significant opportunities to meet future demand of Ga and Ge by concentrating recovery efforts in the extraction and beneficiation/smelting/refining stages. Further, 1.4% Ga, 0.7% Ge, and 54% In of the theoretical available amount in the attractor ores are extracted to meet the primary refined demand in 2011. Of the 9,065 tonnes (t) of Ga embodied in the Bayer liquor (from aluminum production), only 263 t are refined. This is owing to low capacities of Ga refining, combined with a refining efficiency of 60%. Ge presents a similar case for the same reasons, in which only 43 t of Ge of the 7,636 t of Ge available from zinc leach residue are refined. Meeting future In demand, on the other hand, will require greater efforts in increasing end-of-life recycling. Process efficiencies for Ga (46%), Ge (56%), and In (78%) demonstrate further potential. We quantify the flows into use by distinguishing among dissipative and nondissipative end uses, as well as the recyclable fraction for each metal for 2011.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)890-903
    JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
    Volume19
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015

    Keywords

    • Criticality
    • Industrial ecology
    • Metal demand
    • Scarce metals
    • Sustainable metal management
    • Waste

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