What is Silicon when it’s not in the valley?

What is Silicon when it’s not in the valley?
27 September 2021
What is Silicon when it’s not in the valley?

What makes up 27.7% of the Earth’s crust and is one of the most useful elements known to mankind? The answer is Silicon! Not much of a punchline, but some solid facts about today’s material focus, Silicon. This material is also the second most abundant element on our planet, coming second only to Oxygen, and is crucial to many industries.

The basics

Silicon doesn’t occur uncombined in nature, but rather as oxide (Silica) and as silicates. It’s used as an ultra-high-purity crystalline material or combined to make alloys, such as Aluminium-Silicon and Ferro-Silicon (Iron-Silicon).

Oxide compounds and minerals including Silicon:

  • Sand
  • Quartz
  • Rock crystal 
  • Amethyst 
  • Agate
  • Flint
  • Opal

Silicate compounds and minerals including Silicon:

  • Asbestos
  • Granite
  • Hornblende
  • Feldspar
  • Clay
  • Mica

Is Silicon a metal or non-metal?

Silicon is one of the seven elements that are known as metalloids. These materials don’t behave exactly like metals or non-metals, but they can present properties of each - depending on the specific combination of elements.

When used in electronics, Silicon will act like and perform well as a metal. It’s a semiconductor, meaning it conducts electricity; however, it becomes a better conductor as the temperature increases. This is unusual for standard metals, as they would become less conductive with a higher temperature. 

Properties and applications of Silicon

Silicon is the namesake of the centre of technology, Silicon Valley, in California. The material really made an impact on the tech world, being used in products from smartphones to transformer plates.

Properties include:

  • Hard and brittle
  • Non-toxic
  • Versatile
  • Semiconducting 
  • Relatively chemically inert at low temperatures

Its wide array of applications include:

  • Transistors 
  • Lasers
  • Radios
  • iPhones
  • Solar cells
  • Computer chips
  • Dynamo and transformer plates
  • Engine blocks 
  • Machine tools
  • Cosmetics

To learn more about Silicon or to discuss Goodfellow’s product range, get in touch with the team at info@goodfellow.com or give us a call on 0333 252 4363.

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