Does Silicon Decay?


November 23, 2015

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Silicon is, in its own way, quite a natural wonder.Silicon is one of the most prevalent elements on the planet and in the atmosphere and it is also used in several versatile ways in manufacturing. But not only is it versatile, but it is also one of the more stable elements you’ll find naturally – it is not known to have any real half-life in its most naturally occurring isotopes.But does silicon decay at all?Well technically, yes. But the caveats are huge.First, let’s take a look at silicon in its most naturally occurring forms. When found in nature, silicon has three atomic mass numbers – 28, 29 and 30. Those three isotopes are considered highly stable in that they have no known half-life, which means they do not decay in any significant way.However, as you deviate away from those isotopes, the silicon can have a wide range of half-lives. For example, if you have silicon with a mass number of 27 (just one below a naturally occurring isotope), the half-life is just over four seconds. An isotope of 25, however, has a half-life of 0.022 seconds.If you go higher than the natural 30 isotope, a 31 isotope has a half-life of about 2 ½ hours, a 32 isotope has a half-life of more than 150 years, and a 33 isotope is just six seconds.The three stable isotopes, for evident reasons, are the most used and most valuable in manufacturing, whether it is for glass or semiconductors. However, some of the other isotopes can be created for other purposes as well based on their half-lives and the importance of silicon decay or stability. Regardless, silicon has tremendous versatility in so many ways that it is an attractive material for all kinds of purposes, and having stable isotopes as well as varied half-lives perpetuates the element’s versatility and utility as a valuable member of the Earth‘s family of manufacturing raw materials.

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