S for Silicon, The element of the masses

Silicon(Atomic number 14), the 2nd most abundant element in earth after oxygen. It was first prepared and characterized in pure form in 1823. In 1808, it was given the name silicium (from Latin: silex, hard stone or flint), with an -ium word-ending to suggest a metal, a name which the element retains in several non-English languages. However, its final English name, first suggested in 1817, reflects the more physically similar elements carbon and boron.

Elemental silicon also has a large impact on the modern world economy. Although most free silicon is used in the steel refining, aluminium-casting, and fine chemical industries (often to make fumed silica).

A small portion of very highly purified silicon that is used in semiconductor electronics (< 10%) is perhaps even more critical. Because of wide use of silicon in integrated circuits a great deal of modern technology depends on it. From cars to phones, silicon in this form has reached more than half the world population. In 2014, the number of cell phones in circulation has exceeded the human population.

The lowest acceptable purity for electronic grade silicon is 99.9999999%. This means that for every billion atoms, only one non-silicon atom is allowed.

Silicon is the eighth most abundant element in the Universe; it is made in stars with a mass of eight or more Earth suns. Near the end of their lives these stars enter the carbon burning phase, adding helium nuclei to carbon to produce oxygen, neon, magnesium and silicon.

Silicon burning is the last phase of a heavy star’s life before a supernova and lasts only about one day. During this phase, helium nuclei add to silicon to make sulfur, argon, calcium, titanium, chromium, iron and nickel.

References: chemicool.com, wikipedia


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