Ruthenium, which naturally occurs in the form of platinum ores, is considered to be a rare element found in the Earth’s crust and ranks sixth on the list of rare elements on the earth. Ruthenium is extracted from the ore by separating it from other platinum metals such as platinum, palladium, and osmium. The separation process involves a series of chemical reactions which results in the formulation of these rare metals. A major use of ruthenium is in the production of alloys (which is made by melting and mixing of two or more metals). Ruthenium is added to the alloy mixture and oxygen and other materials resistant mixture is derived. The most commonly employed metals for alloy mixtures, along with ruthenium, include platinum or palladium. The usage of these alloys primarily takes place in electrical contacts and devices that are employed for measuring very high and very low temperatures. Several medical instruments and jewelry are also manufactured using ruthenium alloys.
Ruthenium is widely utilized in the electrical sector; however, a new application of ruthenium has emerged for the last few years. This application involves its usage as a catalyst in chemical reactions. Ruthenium, being used as a catalyst, is likely to provide a way for changing light energy into electrical energy.
The usage of ruthenium in the electrical sector for the production of hard disks, thick film chip resistors, and plasma display panels is driving its market, globally. However, the demand for ruthenium in the electrochemical sector is projected to further drive its market during the forecast period. The major factor attributing to this growth includes its strong demand from the chlor-alkali industry, as it is continuously replacing its mercury-based technology with diaphragm or membrane cells. Other potential emerging applications of ruthenium such as aerospace, super alloys, and fuel cells technology are driving the market. However, factors such as adverse health effects to humans is anticipated hamper the expansion of the market.
In terms of application, the market can be segmented into electrical, chemical catalyst, electrochemical, and others. Among several applications of ruthenium in the electrical industry, some of its uses include Perpendicular magnetic recording technology (PMR) to increase the data to be stored on hard disk, in the chip resistor, and in the production of plasma display panels for flat screen televisions.
In terms of form, the global ruthenium market can be segmented into dry/powder, gas, and liquid forms. Several manufacturers offer ruthenium in dry/powder form, as it reduces the reaction time, thereby increasing the yield in a chemical reaction.
In terms of geography, North America is anticipated to lead the global ruthenium market. The production of ruthenium is high in platinum deposits near Ural Mountains in Russia and in North America and Latin America. It is also obtained as a by-product of the nickel mining in the Sudbury Basin in Ontario, Canada. Consequently, the consumption for this domestically-produced ruthenium is witnessed in the electronic and chemical industry in the region, thereby increasing its demand year on year. This, in turn, is propelling the region as a prominent consumer of ruthenium in the global market. Latin America and Europe are anticipated to be lucrative regions for ruthenium market due to the large amount of platinum metals mined in Russia and Brazil. Furthermore, the usage of ruthenium in radiotherapy for eye tumors and as an aid to cancer treatment is projected to drive its demand.
Key players operating in the global ruthenium market include Johnson Matthey (U.K.) American Elements (U.S.), Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K. (Tokyo), OXKEM (U.K.), Nordt Engineered Precious Metals (U.S.), and Dyesol (Australia).
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