Yttrium is a chemical element (symbol Y) belonging to the rare earth element group, which is an exceptional group of elements that exhibit superior magnetic, optical and electronic properties. Attributing to its physical properties such as excellent electric conductivity, creep resistant, heat stabilizing and light weight, yttrium is garnering tremendous attention from industrial and manufacturing sectors. Largely, yttrium is extracted from the deposits of rare earth elements, while some relatively smaller quantities are obtained during the mining of other metals. Yttrium is not found as a pure element, but always in the form of a compound, mostly yttrium oxide. Yttrium is used in manufacturing the tubes of older television sets and showcases excellent color ranges. It is, therefore, used in light bulbs and panels as well.
Among all yttrium compounds, yttrium oxide witnesses relatively higher demand due to its diverse applications and use in defense and electronic sectors. In the electronics sector, yttrium is used along with phosphor compounds for flat panel displays and in the defense sector, yttrium is largely used for laser target designators with aluminium garnet composites. Yttrium is also used as a catalyst in polymer manufacturing.
Yttrium can be used in high temperature superconductors that have the potential to replace permanent magnets, especially in wind turbines. This shift could surge the demand for yttrium in the near future. The market of yttrium and other rare earth elements is largely dependent on scientific and technological advancements. Hence, almost any progress might drive the market on an upward trajectory. Attributing to its excellent physical and chemical properties, its application in ceramics is likely to make an impact in niche markets as well.
It can be said that yttrium has no other potential substitute and hence, the growth rate for this market is estimated to remain stable in the near future. While yttrium oxide finds key applications in the phosphor market, the recent substitution of Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) for LED displays is affecting its demand, leading to an oversupply and a subsequent decline in the prices. On the other hand, yttrium is expected to be register high demand from its application in yttria-stabilized zirconia (YTZ).
Since most of the yttrium and yttrium oxide is found in China, yttrium has restricted international trade. Also, the Government of China has many ongoing international issues based on the export and illegal mining of yttrium, which is compelling end users to seek new opportunities in order to meet supply shortages.
Currently, yttrium and its compounds are being used in the treatment of cancer, especially liver cancer. They also serve as thermal barrier coatings in jet engines and their usage in this segment will continue to grow until a better and cheaper substitute originates. Thus, the global market of yttrium is expected to register noteworthy growth during the forecast period.
The yttrium market can be segmented on the basis of application and end use.
On the basis of application, the yttrium market has been segmented into,
- Medicinal purposes
- Coating ingredient
- High temperature superconductors
On the basis of end use, the yttrium market has been segmented into,
- Metal Alloys
China is one of the leading producers of yttrium oxide and yttrium, followed by Australia, due to the availability of large rare earth metal reserves in the regions. In the South East Asia and Pacific region, China has a comparatively larger consumer base for yttrium oxide. With China dominating the rare earth element market in Asia Pacific by up to 40%, the cost of yttrium across the globe is dependent on exports from China.
Strong growth in the electronics industry is pushing the demand for yttrium. The demand in Japan, South East Asia and Pacific is expected to be largely driven by the permanent magnet and metal alloys product segment. North America, Europe and Latin America are also pegged to be significant markets due to the strong presence of the functional coatings markets in these regions.