Silicon is found in many products from very low-tech bricks, ceramics and soaps to high-tech microelectronics and computer chips. Silicon is also abundant in nature in various forms.
Silicon is the seventh most common element in the universe and the second most common on Earth. Twenty-five percent of the Earth’s crust is silicon. Silica is an oxide of silicon, which is the most common component of white beach sand. Opals are formed when silica is bound to water molecules, and plants use silicon to strengthen their cell walls and maintain resistance to diseases.
Silicate is a compound formed when silicon is mixed with other elements. Silicates are used to make sealers, caulks and other types of synthetic oils. When these silicates are combined with silica sand and gravel, they make concrete. Silicates are also in whiteware ceramics and porcelain, traditional quartz-based soda-lime glass and many other specialty glasses. Abrasives and high-strength ceramics are made from silicon carbide.
Silicon is a semiconductor that is used to make transistors. Silicon Valley got its name from the silicon used to make computer chips. Silicon is also used in many electronic devices such as radios, televisions, computers, smartphones, iPhones and solar cells. Silicon-based electronic devices hold hope for treating neurological disorders and creating lasers that transmit data faster and more efficiently than traditional optical cables.