Silicon: Here are 5 Underappreciated Facts


May 11, 2015

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Silicon is a member of the periodic table of elements. Pretty much all of us know that from our high-school chemistry classes. It is a natural mineral and element (as opposed to lab-formed elements similar to what is seen at the bottom of the periodic table) that is used quite extensively in electronics – especially in computerized devices of various types – not just laptops and smartphones but now even in televisions and many cars.Most people know that silicon is used to make our silicon wafers of microchips and processors for computer devices of various types, but in the midst of all this silicon being in your face this way, are there not some facts about silicon that maybe we forget or have not paid much attention to in the past?We can easily know and remember that silicon has an atonic number of 14 on the periodic table and has an atomic weight of slightly more than 28. We might even remember that silicon is the second-most prevalent element on the Earth (behind oxygen – did you think it was carbon?) and it’s the seventh-most prevalent in the entire universe. We know you are smart enough to remember that stuff. Your chemistry teacher would be quite upset with you right now if you hadn’t, right?Here are five facts about silicon that you either don’t know or have forgotten to appreciate. We’re not going to let you forget again:

  1. Silicon is not a natural element in that it stands by itself; in its most common natural form, it is as silicon dioxide, also called silica, or SiO2. The most common form of silicon on Earth is in the form of beach sand. Quartz, the shiny particles in sand, is actually non-crystallized silica.
  2. Silicon is not silicone, as in breast implants. Silicon is in silicone, but silicon is mixed with carbon, oxygen and hydrogen to make silicone.
  3. Silicon is a semi-conductor, which means it conducts electricity only moderately well. But it is not a metal, it is a metalloid, which means it is a hybrid between a metal and non-metal based on its characteristics. It’s a metal in that it does conduct electricity, but it’s a non-metal in that it conducts electricity better at high temperatures (while metals do worse as they are heated).
  4. The name “Silicon Valley” was penned by the trade newspaper Electronic News way back in 1971 to represent the current part of central California where prominent companies like Apple, Google and Facebook got their starts.
  5. Silicon is not only a major component in electronics, but it also has standing in such common items as bricks and certain ceramic items. This is usually due to the high heat tolerance of silicon.

There you have it. A few fun little facts you can have at your next iDevice launch party. Trivia that will ensure that you secure the title of smartest guy in the room. Maybe