Metals are commonly used along with other materials (like plastic) in different types of electronics and technology.
In the guide below, we outline the different metals used in these different types of electronics and technology products and applications.
We also consider which metals might be experience new or increasing demand in the future.
Summary – Metals Used In Electronics & Technology
Different Types Of Metals
Metals can be categorised in various ways, and we outline some of the main categorisations in this guide
What Are Technology & Electronics Metals?
They are mainly metals used in technology and electronics applications and products
We list some of these applications and products in the guide below
It’s worth noting that the metals used in technology and electronics have certain traits or properties that make them suitable for different things. For example, conductivity, magnetism, and malleability are just a few of the desirable traits
Metals Commonly Found In General Electronics & Technology Products & Applications
The metals found in different electronics and technology products and applications differ between different products and applications
Specialty metals, precious metals, rare earth elements and minor metals are some general examples
Specific examples of some of the most common metals found across a range of electronics and technology products and applications are copper, gold, and silver, but there are other specific examples listed in the guide below
Iron based metals like aluminum or steel can also be used for casings and outer shells of different devices
Metals Found In Specific Electronics & Technology Products & Applications
In the guide below, we also list reports that outline metals used specifically in:
Lithium Ion Batteries
Military & Weaponry Technology & Electronics
Renewable Energy, Clean Energy & Low Carbon Energy, & Energy Storage
Carbon Capture & Storage
Technology & Electronics Metals That May Have New Or Increasing Demand In The Future
Tin, lithium, cobalt, silver, nickel and gold are some examples of metals that could see new or increasing demand in the future based on new, or expanding industries
Nickel and cobalt for examples are used across various clean energy and electric vehicle components, and, lithium is obviously used in lithium ion batteries
However, there are others metals in specific emerging technologies and electronics that may be in demand too.
Ultimately it depends on the industries, applications & products that experience increased demand
What Are Technology & Electronics Type Metals?
They are generally any metal used in technology or electronics based applications or products.
techmetalsresearch.com provides a more in depth description in their guide of what ‘technology metals’ might be.
What Are Some Common Uses & Applications For Technology & Electronics Type Metals?
Some common uses might include but isn’t limited to consumer and industrial electronics and associated devices, automotives (conventional vehicles and new vehicles like EV), lighting, alternative power/energy and electricity generation, energy storage (using cells, batteries, etc), and military defence, weapons and systems.
Why Are Certain Metals Used In Electronics & Technology Over Others?
Traits and properties of the metals play a key role in why and how they are used in electronics and technology.
As just one example, and as outlined by eridirect.com, gold is used in printed circuit boards for it’s ability as an electricity conductor, but also because of it’s malleability and resistance to tarnish.
The same can be true for silver and copper, with energyeducation.ca outlining that ‘Silver has the highest electrical conductivity of all metals, with copper having the second highest … [and this makes them useful in electronics]’
Other metals like ‘… Alnico alloy, an iron alloy with aluminum, nickel and cobalt … make strong permanent magnets [and] They are widely used in industrial and consumer electronics’ (metalsupermarkets.com)
Metals Found In General Electronics & Technology
cleanaway.com.au provides more information on the metals contained in electronic devices:
Besides plastic and glass, electronic devices contain base and special metals such as cobalt, tin and antimony as well as precious metals like silver, gold, and platinum, all of which can be fully recovered.
resourcepanel.org indicates that ‘Smartphones, flat screen TVs, and USB keys all drive demand for specialty and precious metals’
The eridirect.com resource contains information on the precious metals found in different types of electronics devices, with copper, gold and silver being common metals, but also palladium, tin, zinc, nickel, iron, bismuth and antimony listed as other metals
Copper and silver are used in the greatest quantities of all metals for cell phones according to some studies
The eridirect.com guide is a very good overall read because they outline various points of data on metal use in electronics devices, and also what parts of these devices use different metals (e.g. gold for circuit boards, iron cores for power supplies, silver and palladium for solder and components, steel for outer casings, gold plated pins and connectors, and copper connective wires)
By looking at the metal scrap in regular electronic device waste, we can get an idea of the metals used in these devices.
mayermetals.com mention that electronic device waste has the following metals commonly found in them – gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper, nickel, tantalum, cobalt, aluminum, tin, zinc, and neodymium
Both the eridirect.com and mayermetals.com guides give more information on metals found in electronics and technology type devices, such as what metals different e-waste have in them, the quantities and % share of metals, e-waste devices with the most metals, what parts of different devices metals make up, and how much more efficient recycling is than iron ore extraction
techmetalsresearch.com provides full lists of several types of metals used in technology, and that might be considered ‘technology metals’.
These are 1. Precious Metals, 2. Rare Earth Elements, and 3. Minor Metals
You can view the full list of metals for each type of metal at techmetalsresearch.com
Metals Used In LED’s (Light Emitting Diodes)
[Metals used in Light Emitting Diodes might include] Aluminum, Chromium, Copper, Indium, Iron (cast), Lead, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silver, Zinc (carbonbrief.org, and documents.worldbank.org)
Metals Used In Computers, Laptops & Printed Circuitboards
[Metals used in Keyboards, Personal Computers, Printed Circuit Boards and Car Electronics might include] – have precious metals and also silver, gold, copper, zinc, nickel, bismuth, iron and antimony are present in all four devices listed (eridirect.com)
[Metals used in Modern Computers might include] – The metals contained in PC’s commonly include aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, gallium, gold, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, palladium, platinum, selenium, silver, and zinc (pubs.usgs.gov)
[Metals used in Old Computers may include] – Gold (a key part of most circuit boards) … the power supply has an iron core inside … Silver and palladium make up the solder and components of many circuit boards … steel makes up part of the outer casing … Gold-plated pins and connectors run throughout the machine, as well … Copper makes up the connective wires (eridirect.com)
The mayermetals.com contains information on the precious metals found in common computers
According to techwalla.com, laptops are made mainly plastic, but also of:
The Body – aluminum, steel and elements carbon and nickel. Copper is a substantial component of laptops used in wiring on circuit boards and to connect electrical components.
Laptop Battery – The most common lithium-ion batteries contain [lithium and] cobalt, oxygen and carbon.
Laptop Trace Materials – Silicon is used to manufacture microchips. The optical components in laptop screens can include indium, gallium and arsenic. Solder is made up of multiple metals, such as tin and bismuth. Internal motors contain tiny magnets comprised of neodymium. A few electronic components have minute quantities of precious metals such as gold or platinum.
[Metals used in Printed Circuit Boards may include] – contain copper, gold, silver, and palladium (eridirect.com)
Metals Used In Cell Phones, Smartphones & Mobiles
[Metals used in Cell Phones may include] – … gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper, tin and zinc (eridirect.com)
epa.gov also indicates the cell phones may have good metal recovery potential, and some of the recoverable metals in cell phones are: ‘For every million cell phones we recycle, 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.’
Metals Used In Lithium Ion Batteries
In most [lithium ion batteries] … the critical metals include lithium, graphite, cobalt and nickel (smallcaps.com.au)
Metals In Military & Weaponry Technology & Electronics
According to investorintel.com, metals used in military weapons, and electronic weapons systems:
[Are generally] rare earth metals
Examples are permanent magnet materials, i.e. samarium cobalt (SmCo), and neodymium iron boron (NdFeB)
Other examples of rare or precious metals used are … dysprosium, neodymium, samarium, terbium, yttrium, erbium, europium, indium, rhenium, iridium, tantalum, tellurium, and many others.
Regular metals are also used in vehicles and aircrafts for strength (steel), and to make vehicles (in the air, in water and on land) lighter
[Metals] are used in technology like precision-guided missiles, smart bombs, and aircrafts
[Other specific examples of uses are listed in the investorintel.com guide]
Metals Used In Renewable Energy, Clean Energy & Low Carbon Energy, & Energy Storage
Metals used in renewable energy, clean energy (and low carbon energy), and energy storage include:
Wind – Aluminum, Chromium, Copper, Indium, Iron (cast), Iron (magnet), Lead, Manganese, Molybdenum, Neodymium (proxy for rare earths), Nickel, Steel (engineering)
Solar Photovoltaic – Aluminum, Copper, Indium, Lead, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silver, Zinc
Concentrating Solar Power – Aluminum, Iron (cast), Silver
– carbonbrief.org, and documents.worldbank.org
Copper is used as a conductor for some wind power
Indium and gallium are used in the coatings of some photovoltaic film
Clean Energy (e.g. Nuclear Power)
Nuclear Power – Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Indium, Lead, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silver (carbonbrief.org, and documents.worldbank.org)
Energy Storage – Aluminum, Cobalt, Iron (cast), Nickel (carbonbrief.org, and documents.worldbank.org)
Metals Used In Carbon Capture & Storage
[The metals found in Carbon Capture & Storage might be] Aluminum, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Indium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel (carbonbrief.org, and documents.worldbank.org)
Metals Used In Electric Vehicles
[Metals used in Electric Vehicles might include] Cobalt, Copper, Manganese, Neodymium (proxy for rare earths), Nickel, Silver (carbonbrief.org, and documents.worldbank.org)
Electric Vehicle Batteries
Electric vehicles have lithium ion batteries which use rare earth metals, and lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite (generalkinematics.com)
Metals Used In Electric Motors
[Metals used in Electric Motors might include] Aluminum, Copper, Iron (magnet) (carbonbrief.org, and documents.worldbank.org)
Technologies & Metals That May See New Or Increasing Demand In The Future
It’s worth mentioning that it can be hard to say definitively which technology and metals will be in most demand in the future, or experience new or increasing demand.
Different factors can impact different industries, technologies and ultimately metal demand.
Some general forecasts include:
The technologies that will have the new demand [in the future] are autonomous and electric vehicles, advanced robotics, renewable energy, and advanced computing and IT (australianmining.com.au)
Metals that are forecast to be impacted most by new technology and electronics (in order of most demand starting from the top):
PGM (Pt, Pd)
Specifically for wind, solar, and energy storage batteries, thermofisher.com indicates:
Metals which could see a growing market include aluminum (including its key constituent, bauxite), cobalt, copper, iron ore, lead, lithium, nickel, manganese, the platinum group of metals, silver, steel, titanium, zinc, and rare earth metals including cadmium, molybdenum, neodymium, and indium