Germanium is a semiconductor metalloid with similar chemical and physical properties to silicon. Germanium is primarily extracted from sphalerite (the primary ore of zinc), though it can be mined commercially from copper, silver and lead ores as well. Germanium is more reactive than silicon and is not found in its nascent form.
Germaniums’ use in night-vision optical devices and as semiconductor in electronics and solar panels is expected to drive the global market. However, difficulty in mining due to small reserves and substitutability by silicon might hamper the market growth. Increasing adoption of solar panels is expected to bring future prospective demand.
Major germanium production is from China, Russia and the U.S.A. Germanium prices are on a rise and escalating at a rapid rate due to tight supplies. China produces more than half of the global supplies and levies taxes on exports of high quality germanium products such as germanium dioxide, germanium tetrachloride. Currently, a major portion of the germanium produced globally is from recycled products. Additionally, due to environmental concern several production plants in China had to be shut down temporarily for installation of safety controls. This further tightened germanium supply in the market and caused price increases in 2012.
Germanium market can be segmented, based on its end-use application, into four key segments as optical fiber, infrared optics, solar cells and PET catalyst. Optical fiber was the dominant application segment with major demand from Japan in the last year. Solar cells application is expected to be the fastest growing segment owing to increasing adoption of solar panel as a renewable energy substitute of fossil fuels.
Some of the players in the germanium market include Yunnan Lincang Xinyuan Germanium Industry Co., Ltd., Yunnan Chihong Zinc &Germanium Co., Ltd., China Germanium Co., Ltd., Yunnan Luoping Zinc & Electricity Co., Ltd., and Shaoguan Smelting Plant among others.
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