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Science Innovation Centre · 014 · Silicon

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Silicon is the most abundant electropositive element in The Earth’s crust. It’s a metalloid with a marked metallic lustre and very brittle.

Natural silicon contains 92.2% of the isotope 28, 4.7% of silicon 29 and 3.1% of silicon 30. Apart from those stable natural isotopes, various radioactive artificial isotopes are known.

Silicon is the principal component of glass, cement, ceramics, most semiconductor devices, and silicones, the latter a plastic substance often confused with silicon. Silicon is also an important constituent of some steels and a major ingredient in bricks. It is a refractory material used in making enamels and pottery.

Elemental raw silicon and its intermetallic compounds are used as alloy integrals to provide more resistance to the aluminium, magnesium, copper and other metals. Metallurgic silicon with 98-99% purity is used as raw material in the manufacture of organosilicon and silicon resins, seals and oils. Silicon chips are used in integrated circuits. Photovoltaic cells for direct conversion of solar energy use thin cut slices of simple silicon crystals of electronic grade. Silicon dioxide is used as raw material to produce elemental silicon and silicon carbide. Big silicon crystals are used for piezoelectric glasses. Melted quartz sands are transformed in silicon glasses which are used in laboratories and chemical plants, as well as in electric insulators. A colloidal dispersion of silicon in water is used as a coating agent and as ingredient for certain enamels.

It is known that silicon forms compounds with 64 out of the 96 stable elements and possibly form silicides with other 18 elements. Apart from metallic silicides, which are used in big quantities in metallurgy, it forms important commonly used compounds with hydrogen, carbon, halogens, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur. Moreover, many useful organosilicon by-products.