An average smartphone contains 41 different elements-and last year alone 1.2 billion of the handsets were sold globally.
This is causing an imbalance between the supply of metals and metalloids and their demand from consumers-a concept referred to as'criticality.'
Researchers have now assessed the criticality of all 62 metallic-based elements on the Periodic Table to reveal which are most at risk and what that means for our gadgets in the long-term.
Metal criticality is analysed in three ways-supply risk,vulnerability to supply restriction(VSR)and environmental implications.
Using these three categories,researchers from Yale University led by Professor Thomas Graedel were able to see which metals and metalloids are most at risk within each group.
Many of the metals traditionally used in manufacturing,including zinc,copper,and aluminum,are not at risk,explained Professor Graedel.
However,the newer or less-common metals used in smartphones,infrared optics,and medical imaging,are vulnerable.
The team's results show that the limitations for many important metals used in smartphones and other gadgets are largely those related to supply risk.
These include gallium used in processor chips and selenium in transistors on these chips.
Platinum group metals including gold and mercury have the highest environmental implications.
'The metals we've been using for a long time probably won't present much of a challenge,'said Professor Graedel.
'We've been using them for a long time because they're pretty abundant and they are generally widespread geographically.
'But some metals that have become deployed for technology only in the last 10 or 20 years are available almost entirely as byproducts.
'You can't mine specifically for them;they often exist in small quantities and are used for specialty purposes.And they don't have any decent substitutes.'
The researchers listed these as indium,arsenic,thallium,antimony,silver,and selenium.There is no substitute for indium,in particular,and this could impact our touchscreens.