The Many Uses of Silicon

Since silicon has given its name to a California valley known for technological marvels, it’s most commonly thought of as the stuff of the chips and circuits and wafers that make our computers, phones, and electronic devices do their thing to make our lives endlessly easier. But the element Si has many other uses and appearances in our lives that we may think less about.

All Around Us

When it’s not being pressed into electronic service by a silicon wafer manufacturer, silicon can be found pretty much everywhere—on the beach as sand, in rocks like granite, quartz, and flint; in building materials like concrete and bricks; and even in your very own bones. It forms nearly 30 percent of the earth’s crust and about .1 percent of your body. 

Pretty Useful Things

Speaking of rocks, silicon is found gems like amethysts, agates, and opals. The clear and sparkling glass in your windows and TV screen and picture frames and drink receptacles is made by melting down silicon in the form of sand. Ceramics and pottery also contain silicon, so both the decorative items in your home and the mug you drink your coffee from may be silicon-based. Silicon can also aid in plant growth and help gardeners nurture bigger, sturdier flowers.  

In Combination

Silicon merges with a wide range of other elements to create everything from sturdy metal items for engines and manufacturing to a waterproof silicone rubber that forms a pliable sealant to lubricant oils in your makeup and hair products. It may be found in medical devices, food supplements, soap, and glue. It’s been used in the space program and in Silly Putty

Silicon has an incredible number of uses well beyond computer components, some celebrated, some quiet and unappreciated. It’s an element that’s elemental to modern life.