Did you know there is silicon on the moon?
During the moon landing of 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins left a small silicon disk on the moon containing messages of goodwill from many of planet earth’s most notable leaders at the time. Considering we have found countless uses for the element, it is not surprising that silicon is among the tokens left on the moon’s surface by the Apollo 11 team.
Silicon is one of the most impactful elements in our modern world. The shiny, metallic-looking crystalline powder is one of the most abundant elements in the universe, though it is never found on its own. Chemists have harnessed the element to create many of the conveniences we have come to rely on. Here we will examine 6 notable use cases of silicon.
Sure, there’s silicon on the moon but did you know you are using silicon to read these words? Silicon is used in the tech world as a semiconductor for computers and other electronic components, like circuit boards. A high-purity silicon compound called trichlorosilane is heated to the point of thermal decomposition to create high-purity silicon, which is then recrystallized for use. When making products like microchips, silicon is liquefied and poured into ultra-thin semi-conductive wafers.
If you ever wondered why they call California’s tech hub “Silicon Valley,” now you know!
Though semi-conductive wafers are extremely valuable in the tech space, the sheets of ultra-thin silicon are used in other applications as well, notably, in solar panels. Silicon wafers are an excellent fit for use in solar panels both because of their semi-conductive properties and silicon’s efficiency at generating energy from the sun. It has a solar band gap of 1.1 eV.
One of the most notable uses of silicon is silicone. Silicone is a polymerized form of synthetic silicon compounds. Though there are numerous uses for silicone, medical-grade silicone is immensely important to our modern lives and enables us to receive the outstanding medical care we have come to expect. Silicone is used to make implantable devices like catheters, heart pumps, and defibrillators, as well as reusable and single-use components. But medical-grade silicone shows up in one other surprising place: medical equipment manufacturing. Medical-grade silicone is required for coating the wires and cables on the machines used in medical settings.
Though the tech and green energy industries are strong, most silicon is used to make alloys. Alloys are metal blends formulated to create a tougher end product with improved strength that is less likely to corrode. A few examples include aluminum-silicon and ferrosilicon. Alloys are used to make several types of machinery and engines. It is even used to remove oxidation from steel.
Glass & Building Materials
When we think of sand we are often transported to powdery beaches. But sand is used to manufacture things we use every day—and contains silicon. Otherwise known as silicon dioxide or silica, sand is used to make bricks, cement, and concrete. Surprisingly, our toughest materials contain some of the same ingredients as our most fragile materials. Sand is also used as the main component in glassmaking.
Lasers revolutionized numerous processes and industries and none of it would have been possible without silicon. A semi-conductor called silicon carbide is used to create silicon-based lasers. The most powerful silicon-based laser has a power output of 100 mW and can reach a current per unit area of 200 A/cm2.
There are countless uses for silicon and it shows up in some of our oldest technology, like glass, and our newest, like computers. No matter the application or the industry, high-quality silicon will make your project a success.
Noah Technologies specializes in high-purity chemicals that will protect the integrity of your project. Discover elemental silicon and countless silicon compounds in Noah Technologies’ extensive online catalog. Or contact us to speak with one of our knowledgeable in-house chemists about custom chemicals or bulk ordering.
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