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Facts about Silicon - Properties and Uses

A Botany graduate, Nithya Venkat enjoys researching and writing about topics that interest her.

Silicon

Silicon

Silicon is a non-metallic element found in abundance in the earth’s crust. Silicon is produced during the last stages of the life of a star when it completely burns out.

The name "Silicon" is derived from the Latin name silex or silicic, meaning flint or hard stone. It is the second most abundant element in the earth's crust, about 28.2 % of the earth’s crust is made up of silicon.

In ancient times, silicon was used by Egyptians to make beads and vases. The manufacture of glass using silicon was carried out by Egyptians and Phoenicians as early as 1500 BC.

China and United States produce the maximum amount of Silicon as compared to other nations.

Discovery of Silicon

The raw form of silicon was discovered by Gay Lussac and Louis Jacques Thenard in 1811.

In 1824 Jons Jacob Berzelius was the first person to prepare a pure form of amorphous silicon by heating potassium with silicon tetrafluoride. He then repeatedly washed silicon tetrafluoride till he was able to obtain a pure form of amorphous silicon.

Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville prepared a form of crystalline silicon (the second allotropic form of silicon) in 1854.

How Does Silicon Occur In the Earth's Crust?

Silicon does not exist in its pure form; it exists in combination with other elements as compounds.

Silicon exists in two forms at room temperature – amorphous and crystalline.

  • amorphous silicon is a brown colored powder
  • crystalline silicon that has a metal-like shine

Silicon dioxide is the most common form of silicon in the sand, quartz, opal, crystal, amethyst, agate, flint, and jasper.

Silicate minerals such as granite, hornblende, asbestos, feldspar, clay, and mica have silicon as one of their main components. They are present in the upper crust and mantle of the earth.

Silicate minerals form the major components of most igneous rocks and are also found in sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.

Silicates have been found in lunar samples, meteorites, and asteroids.

Properties of Silicon

Silicon is represented by the symbol Si and occupies 14th place in the periodic table. When silicon is mixed with other metals, it strengthens and increases the hardness of the other metals.

Silicon is an inert element that does not react with most substances except hydrofluoric acid, halogens, and dilutes alkali.

Silicon is a semiconductor; the conductivity increases with an increase in temperature. This property makes Silicon an important component of electronics.

Three isotopes of silicon occur naturally –silicon-28, silicon-29, and silicon-30. Isotopes are two or more forms of an element.

Single Crystal Silicon With Mirror Finish

Single Crystal Silicon With Mirror Finish

Importance of Single Crystal Silicon

Single Crystal Silicon is used to produce microelectronics such as computer chips, semiconductors, etc.

It is made up of continuous unbroken crystals produced from the purest form of silicon or doped silicon (silicon with tiny quantities of other elements).

Single-crystal silicon is manufactured using the “Czochralski” process that grows silicon in the shape of cylinders up to 2 m long and 45 cm wide. The silicon cylinder is then cut into thin single slice wafers onto which microcircuits are mounted.

Circuit Board - An Important Component of Microelectronics

Circuit Board - An Important Component of Microelectronics

Uses of Silicon

1. Sand is composed of silicon dioxide (silica). Sand is used to manufacturing glass and buildings' construction materials.

2. Highly pure Silicon is combined with boron, gallium, phosphorus, and arsenic to produce a form of silicon used in transistors, solar cells, circuit boards, and other components utilized in the electronic industry.

3. Silicon is used in the manufacture of silicone. Silicone is a synthetic polymer that has many uses. Using silicon as one of the main ingredients, silicone is produced in fluids, resins, or elastomers (rubbers).

Uses of Silicon in the Form of Silicone

1. Silicone fluids are used in motor oils and heat transfer liquids. They are used to manufacture hydraulic fluids, paints, varnishes, car waxes, and furniture polishes.

2. Silicone resins are used for coating non-stick cookware and industrial molds. They are used for electrical insulation of varnishes for motor and transformer windings.

Silicone resins are utilized in the textile industry to make water-repellent fabrics.

3. In medicine, silicone is used in the manufacture of surgical implants and dental impression materials. They are used to make glass containers for blood collection, prosthetic devices, gels, and bandages. Silicone is not toxic. Due to this nature, they are used in cosmetic surgery.

4. In the cosmetic industry, silicone is used in products such as shampoos, shaving gels, hair conditioners, and any other gel-like products.

5 Aquariums and other watertight containers use silicone to seal the joint area. Water pipes, faucets, counter joints, and tiles are sealed with silicone to prevent leakage.

Silicon Summarized

  • Silicon is a non-metallic element
  • about 28.2 % of the earth’s crust is made up of silicon
  • Silicon is the second most abundant element in the universe
  • silicon is made in the last stages of the life of a star when it completely burns out
  • silicon does not exist in its pure form; it exists in combination with other elements as compounds
  • it is an inert element that does not react with most substances
  • silicon is used in the manufacture of silicone that has many uses
  • silicone is used in cosmetic surgery for breast implants
  • the name Silicon Valley is based on silicon because silicon is one of the materials used in the manufacture of computer chips

References

http://chemwiki.ucdavis.edu/Inorganic_Chemistry/Descriptive_Chemistry/p-Block_Elements/Group_14%3A_The_Carbon_Family/Chemistry_of_Silicon

http://www.livescience.com/28893-silicon.html

http://www.addisonengineering.com/about-silicon.html

© 2014 Nithya Venkat

Comments

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 20, 2014:

teaches12345 thank you and am glad you found it interesting.

Dianna Mendez on June 19, 2014:

There is so much to silicon usage, especially in cosmetics. Thank you for the education - you made it very interesting.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 14, 2014:

Jackie Lynnley thank you.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on June 14, 2014:

Very informative hub to further educate your followers. Thank you! ^+

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 08, 2014:

Jodah thank you for your visit and comment.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on June 08, 2014:

Very interesting facts Vellur. We use silicon in so many applications but probably don't know much about it or where it comes from. I learnt a lot from this hub anyway. Thanks for doing the research.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 07, 2014:

Sunshine625 it is always better to be natural and i can't imagine having silicone inside my body but so many people undergo cosmetic surgery under great risk. I wonder why!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on June 07, 2014:

Wow! I think of cosmetic surgery when I hear "silicone" I never knew it served so many other purposes. Even though it's non-toxic, I'd still pass on using it in my body. Great hub!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 07, 2014:

Suzanne Day thank you for your visit and vote up.

Suzanne Day from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on June 07, 2014:

Very useful information about silicon. It is used a lot around us and I didn't know it was used to manufacture itself! Voted useful.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 06, 2014:

AliciaC thank you for stopping by.

DDE thank you for reading.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 06, 2014:

I did not think of much of Silicon just often heard of how people use it. A unique hub an well-informed of such facts.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 05, 2014:

There's lots of useful information about silicon in this hub, Vellur! Thanks for sharing all the facts.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 05, 2014:

travmaj thank you am glad you find it interesting, silicon is an amazing substance.

travmaj from australia on June 05, 2014:

Absolutely fascinating Vellur, you write the most interesting hubs. All new to me also, most interesting read. Thank you.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 05, 2014:

always exploring thank you for reading and the tweet, much appreciated.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 05, 2014:

You always write the most interesting hubs. All new to me except the silicon breast implants. Thank you. Tweeting.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on June 05, 2014:

RachaelOhalloran thank you for your visit, vote and share.

billybuc thank you, in the Dark Ages I totally agree!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 04, 2014:

Very interesting facts indeed. Where would modern society be without silicon? Back in the Dark Ages I would think.

Rachael O'Halloran from United States on June 04, 2014:

$700 an ounce. Amazing!

No wonder electronics that are made from it costs so much money.

This was a very informative hub. I didn't know half of these uses.

Voted up and shared.

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