Silicon is one of the most useful and amazing elements present on our Earth. Not only does it make up 27.7% of the Earth’s crust by mass, but it is also the second most abundant element. It also comes with incredibly useful properties such as being heat resistant, being electrically conductive, shiny and brittle. Today, we are going to briefly cover top 5 uses of silicon:
1) Electronics: High-purity silicon is created by thermally decomposing the ultra-pure trichlorosilane. This process is then followed by silicon’s recrystallisation, which can be used to create electronics, mainly including semiconductors and creating transistors, printed circuit boards and integrated circuits. For transistors, the material is doped by adding a small impurity which enables the electrons to move around and conduct electricity and create reliable semiconductors for voltage. When heated into a molten state, silicon can be formed into semiconductive wafers, to serve as the base for integrated circuits (microchips).
2) Silicone: Silicon is also used to create silicone, which chemically is silicon-oxygen polymers with methyl groups attached. Silicone oil us generally used as a lubricant added to create cosmetics and hair conditioners, shampoos, etc. Silicone can also be used to create rubber for waterproof sealants in washrooms and windows, pipes and roofs. Unlike its constituent, silicone is a good insulator and is used to create casings for electrical appliances. In the medical arena, silicone is used in breast implants, catheters, contact lenses and bandages.
3) Construction: Most of the materials used in construction such as granite and other rocks are mainly complex silicates, all of which are used in complex civil engineering projects. Two of the main components in creating construction slurry, concrete and cement, comprises of sand, which chemically is silicon dioxide or silica and clay which is an aluminium silicate. Silicate is also used in pottery, enamels and creating high-temperature ceramics.
4) Solar Panels: Solar cells and consequently solar panels are usually created using silicon wafers, simply because of its semiconducting properties, as well as its abundance. Silicon has a solar band efficiency of 1.1 eV, which makes it a reasonable option to be used.
5) High power laser: Silicon-based lasers have been making headlines for quite some time now. The most powerful one being able to rack up a record 111°C temperature, with a threshold current per unit area of 200 A/cm2 and an output power of 100 mW. Silicon-based electronics has probably reached its final limits, and after this silicon photonics has been a source of interest, which combines the photonics and electronics to create ultra-fast optical data processing.
Do you have any other uses of silicon? Share them in the comments’ section below!