10 Fun Facts About Silicon
periodic table of elements silicon
Jun 7, 2023

From the earliest chips to the latest technologies, silicon has long played a major role in semiconductor manufacturing as the substrates (wafers) on which devices are built. Yet silicon wasn’t always thought of as the world’s main chip-making material like it is today. For instance, long before it found a home in the semiconductor industry, silicon in the form of common rocks was among early man’s first tools. You might also be surprised to learn that silicon, like water, is unusual in that it expands when it freezes. And did you know that silicon is the eighth most abundant element in the universe by weight? Keep reading to learn more fun facts about this interesting and useful element.


1) Silicon gets its name from the Latin “silex,” meaning flint or hard stone. Originally named “silicium,” the element’s name was changed in the early 1800s to “silicon,” making it more parallel with carbon and boron.




2) Contrary to what some may think, silicon and silicone are quite different. Silicon is a naturally occurring element, number 14 on the periodic table. Silicone is a synthetic material made of silicon–oxygen polymers used for a variety of applications.




3) Pure silicon has the same crystal structure as diamond, which is made of carbon – the element that sits above silicon in the periodic table.




4) When ultrapure, silicon is a gray solid with a glossy sheen. Although it looks like a metal, silicon is classified as a metalloid – it conducts electricity only under certain conditions – making it well-suited for the electronics industry.




5) Silicon is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust. Silica in the form of silicon dioxide (SiO2) is the most abundant compound in the earth’s crust.




6) In 1969 Apollo 11 astronauts left behind a white container containing a silicon disc a little bit bigger than a silver dollar. Etched in tiny font are messages from different countries that wish goodwill and peace.



7) Sand has a high percentage of silicon and is the starting material to make high-purity silicon wafers on which semiconductor devices are made.




8) Electronic grade silicon must be at least is 99.9999999% pure. Also referred to as nine-nines or 9N, this level of purity means that only one in a billion atoms is allowed to be something other than silicon.




9) The first commercial silicon transistor was announced in 1954, starting what would become decades of extraordinary innovation in the semiconductor industry.




10) After planes, cars and oil, semiconductors are the US’s fourth largest export. Learn how Lam Research enables this fascinating (and critical) industry.


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