Silicon (Si) is the 14th element on the periodic table. It’s a blue-grey solid crystalline substance that makes up about 27.7% of the earth’s crust in terms of mass, making silicon the second most abundant element on the planet after oxygen. In fact, more than 90% of the earth’s crust is made up of silicate minerals and compounds.
Silicon has some fascinating and useful physical and chemicals properties. The element is relatively unreactive, has a high melting and boiling point, and, most importantly, for this topic, silicon is a semiconductor. As a semiconductor, silicon has made an enormous impact in the field of electronics and has laid the foundations of modern technology. Processes such as silicon wafer etching and silicon wafer polishing, yield silicon products used in numerous electronics applications; some of these applications include:
Silicon is probably best known for its use in creating some of the most influential electrical components – the diode and transistor. These two devices paved the way for modern digital electronics, and they are still used today in just about every electrical circuit. Silicon is also used as the base for microchips, and microprocessors, including CPUs and ICs.
Silicon is widely used in lasers to makes what’s known as silicon-hybrid lasers, which are some of the most powerful types of lasers available today. Laser applications involving silicon make use of its photonic properties.
Due to its semiconducting properties, silicon is used to make wafers for fabricating photovoltaic circuits. These photovoltaic circuits are used to manufacture solar cells that are fitted to solar panels. Silicon has a relatively high solar band efficiency of about 1.1eV, plus it’s much easier and cheaper to fabricate into wafers and circuits that other alternative elements.
Electronic applications of silicon are virtually limitless. Silicon ushered in a new era of electronic with the invention of the transistor in 1947. Even today, silicon is still being used to push the boundaries of electronic manufacturing through the micro-fabrication of micro-processors and the investigation of superconductors.