What is Silicon
What is Silicon

Silicon, represented by the symbol Si, is a fascinating element with a rich history and a plethora of applications. With an atomic number of 14 and an atomic mass of 28.0855 g.mol -1, it was discovered by Jöns Jacob Berzelius in 1824. This article delves into the properties, uses, and significance of silicon.

What is Silicon?

Silicon is a close relative of carbon in the periodic table. It belongs to group 14 and possesses four valence electrons. Remarkably, silicon constitutes about 27.7% of the earth’s crust, making it one of the most abundant elements on our planet.

Polymers of Silicon

  1. Silanes: These are strong reducing agents that are part of the silicon hydrides series. Highly reactive, they can easily catch fire when exposed to air and are unstable at room temperature.
  2. Silicides: Structurally similar to carbides and borides, silicides have heats of formation that are often comparable to these compounds.
  3. Silica: Also known as silicon dioxide, its primary constituents are granite and sandstone.
  4. Halides: Silicon reacts with stable halogens to form silicon tetrahalides, which readily hydrolyze in water.
  5. Silicate Minerals: A staggering 95% of the earth’s rocks are made up of silicate minerals. In terms of mass, approximately 28% of the earth’s crust is silicon.
  6. Silicic Acids: These acids predominantly exist in aqueous solutions, and their concentration increases with the presence of water, leading to the formation of hydrated silica gels.

Uses of Silicon

  • A major component in ceramics and bricks.
  • Widely used in the semiconductor industry for making transistors.
  • Essential for computer chips and solar cells.
  • A crucial ingredient in Portland cement.
  • Used in the production of fire bricks.
  • Employed in various waterproofing systems as silicones.
  • Integral to many mould release agents and moulding compounds.
  • A component of ferrosilicon, an alloy extensively used in the steel industry.

Why Is Silicon Used In Computers?

Silicon has an atomic structure that makes it an ideal choice for semiconductor production. Also, it’s widely available at a reasonable cost. It has the conductive properties of metal as well as being an insulator, so silicon can conduct and block electricity. This ability makes silicon ideal as a switching mechanism (which is the basis of all modern electronics).

Is There A Difference Between Silicon and Silicone?

Silicon and silicone are two different materials, but they are often confused because of their similar names.

Silicon is a naturally occurring chemical element, the 14th element on the periodic table. It is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, after oxygen. Silicon is a metalloid, meaning it has properties of both metals and nonmetals. It is a semiconductor, which means it can conduct electricity under certain conditions. Silicon is also very hard and brittle.

Silicone, on the other hand, is a man-made polymer made from silicon, oxygen, and other elements, such as carbon and hydrogen. Silicones are typically liquids or rubbery plastics. They have a number of useful properties, including:

  • Low toxicity
  • High heat resistance
  • Good electrical insulation
  • Water repellency
  • Flexibility

Silicones are used in a wide variety of products, including:

  • Electronics (computer chips, semiconductors)
  • Medical devices (implants, catheters, contact lenses)
  • Personal care products (shampoos, conditioners, lotions, lubricants)
  • Food and beverage industry (food packaging, gaskets, conveyor belts)
  • Construction and industrial applications (sealants, adhesives, lubricants, insulation)

Here is a table summarizing the key differences between silicon and silicone:

TypeNatural elementSynthetic polymer
AppearanceHard, brittle solidLiquid or rubbery plastic
PropertiesSemiconductor, good electrical conductorLow toxicity, high heat resistance, water repellency, flexibility
UsesElectronics, semiconductors, medical devicesElectronics, medical devices, personal care products, food and beverage industry, construction and industrial applications

Properties of Silicon

Silicon often binds with other elements, notably oxygen, to form silicates. These rocks contain both silicon and oxygen. In its pure form, silicon appears as a greyish crystal with a metallic sheen. Though it might resemble metal, it isn’t one.


Silicon’s significance cannot be overstated. From its abundant presence in the earth’s crust to its myriad applications in various industries, it is an element that has shaped the modern world in many ways. Its unique properties and versatile nature make it indispensable in numerous sectors.


  1. Why is silicon considered a close relative of carbon?
    • Both silicon and carbon belong to the 14th group in the periodic table and have four valence electrons, making them tetravalent.
  2. What are some polymers of silicon?
    • Silanes, Silicides, and Silica are some of the polymers.
  3. What are silanes?
    • Silanes are compounds containing only silicon and hydrogen, with the general formula SinH2n+2.
Eric Chan

Hi! I’m Eric and I work on the knowledge base at GadgetMates.com.  You can see some of my writings about technology, cellphone repair, and computer repair here.

When I’m not writing about tech I’m playing with my dog or hanging out with my girlfriend.

Shoot me a message at ericchan@gadgetmates.com if you want to see a topic discussed or have a correction on something I’ve written.

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