Learn About Tin
Uses of Tin
Tin has a wide variety of uses including; solder, tin chemicals, tinplate, lead-acid batteries, copper alloys and other uses. It also has increasing usage as an energy metal for Electric Vehicles.
47% of tin is consumed as lead-free solder by the consumer electronics industry.
Tin chemicals, the second largest end-use with 16% of the market, has the fastest growth.
Thanks to the positive growth forecasts for electronics and solar cell markets, as well as continued conversion to lead-free soldering, the long-term outlook for solder usage remains balanced or slightly positive against smaller unit volumes as a result of miniaturisation.
Tin chemicals for PVC stabilisers, polymer catalysts and numerous other applications is the second largest tin use, with steady growth. They look likely to retain this position for the foreseeable future, with new uses in energy materials in prospect longer term.
Tinplate is mainly used in food cans as well as in some beverage cans, general line cans for chemicals, paints and dry products and also in can ends. Global consumption of tinplate remains static or declining with new opportunities in emerging economies and circular economy regulation.
Tin use in lead-acid batteries, especially in China, is expected to grow steadily with the introduction of more start-stop and microhybrid vehicles as well as growth in alternative energy and telecoms markets.
Copper Alloys & Other Uses
Copper alloys including bronze are still widely used in applications ranging from sculpture to electrical products. Tin and other alloys, including powders and coatings, are used in brake pads, roofing, engineering, bearings and numerous other ways. Traditional pewter giftware is still highly valued and tin wine capsules are used in luxury wines and spirits.
Tin Use in Vehicles
Tin is called the ‘spice element’ because a little of it is present everywhere in ways that are essential to our quality of life. Tin use in vehicles is a good example.
Rio Tinto is looking for new areas in which to invest and Head of Ventures, Mr. Andrew Latham, discussed metals impacted by new technology at the Lithium and Battery Materials Conference in Perth on 21 March 2018. He highlighted analysis by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) into the metals required to meet evolving demand.
MIT explains their approach as doing a functional match between the needs of new technologies and the properties provided by each commodity. For example, if a technology innovation needs conductive materials, it is matched against any commodities that have good electrical conductivity. The commodities are then scored on three metrics: (1) ease of substitution including dematerialization trends, (2) likelihood of market disruption due to the technology and (3) potential size change of commodity demand from the technology compared to the current market size for that commodity. The scores are then summed up across the technologies considered in the study. Tin scored very highly using the MIT framework because of (1) the potential for increased demand applications particularly in the electrical and energy storage areas and (2) because these demand changes might be fairly large in comparison to the current market size. Other commodities had a larger potential for total demand increases, but these were for commodities that already had quite large market sizes.
Tin – An emerging Electric Vehicle (EV) Metal
Tin may be the ‘forgotten eV metal’. As other commodities gain public attention tin is quietly gaining momentum as a performance enhancing component in all of the three generations of advanced EV battery anode materials that have been roadmapped to 2030, plus some solid state technologies. Several hundred papers and patents have tracked development of tin-based materials.
The main focus for tin is in the positive anode electrode of lithium-ion batteries, usually made today of graphite on a copper foil. Next-generation products are already adding silicon into the graphite to increase capacity. Some will probably use tin, either as an alternative or in addition to enhance silicon performance. For example, China’s largest electric vehicle producer, BYD, recently patented a tin-cobalt technology for anodes.
(Source : International Tin Institute website)
Tin Market Facts
China, Indonesia and Myanmar are the world’s major suppliers of tin mine production.
Myanmar supply has declined in recent years and this is expected to continue.
Global mine supply totals ~300,000 tonnes with recycled tin accounting for another ~50,000 tonnes.
China, at 44%, is the largest consuming country of tin followed by other Asia at 25%.
China is the world’s largest producer of refined tin metal.
Why Invest in Tin?
- Limited investment in new tin mines or exploration for tin
- Traditional uses (solder, tin plate and chemicals) returning to growth
- Tin is an energy metal – new uses emerging in energy capture and storage
- Declining global tin stocks in recent years