Element 49 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is indium. Indium makes the touch screens in our electronic devices possible, and is also found in emergency sprinklers and Formula 1 cars.

If you’re reading this on a phone or tablet with a touchscreen, the device you’re using contains indium in the form of indium tin oxide. This compound is a vital component of the touchscreen, used in a transparent film that conducts electricity. 45% of all indium extracted has a use involving indium tin oxide.

Films of indium tin oxide can also be deposited on windows in buildings to help with insulation. This can have a negative effect on the transmission of microwaves through the window, including those used for telecommunications. If you can’t get mobile signal in your office, indium tin oxide could be partly to blame!

Indium is also used to coat the ball bearings in Formula 1 cars due to its low friction. Alloys of indium with low melting points are used in shop and warehouse fire sprinkler systems.

Remember, you can keep track of all of the previous entries in this series on the site here, or on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s dedicated page.