Silicon Valley is the hub of much of the technological and scientific advancement in the United States. The element in the name is vital to information technology, cosmetics, manufacturing and many other industries. Keep reading to find out more about why silicon is vital to modern industry and how the related technologies have advanced below.
The electronic and computer revolutions would have been next to impossible without silicon. A refined, recrystallized form of the element is used in computer chips all over the world. It’s also a common material in semiconductors, transistors, integrated circuits and circuit boards. Pure silicon is often combined with small quantities of phosphorous or arsenic to increase its conductivity and allow electrons to move more freely.
Clean Power Generation
The semiconductive properties of silicon wafers are a large part of what make solar panels viable energy-gathering technologies. They have a low weight-to-volume ratio and impressive life spans. You can find amorphous, monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film silicon in solar panels. Clean energy from solar panels is very popular, and according to the International Energy Agency, it’s breaking records. Annual capacity additions should reach 162 gigawatts by 2022, over 50 percent higher than 2019.
In addition to solar panels, silicon is an important part of wind turbines and hydroelectric power generation as well. Thankfully, silicon is plentiful. It’s the seventh most abundant element in the universe, and it makes up about 25 percent of the Earth’s crust by mass.
The applications of laser technology are as numerous as they are extraordinary, from weapons to satellites to precise manufacturing. Cars, cell phones, ships, medical devices, planes, GPS systems and many other technologies require lasers for their creation or operation. Optical laser data transmission is 10 to 100 times more useful for sending and receiving information than radio transmissions, so almost every satellite in orbit uses it. It took radio tech nine weeks to send detailed images of the Martian surface back to earth, and laser technology can do the same job in just nine days.
Some of the best silicon-based lasers have an output greater than 300 megawatts, and silicon laser tech is often used in today’s incredibly fast optical data processing. Researchers are developing silicon photonics, optical circuits based on silicon chips, to increase computer processing speed by using laser technology to transmit information with light instead of electricity.
O-Rings and Oils
Silicon is an important component of silicone, a combination of silicon, oxygen and hydrogen, and carbon methyl groups. Silicone is an excellent oil or lubricant, and it’s a common ingredient in creams, shampoos and other cosmetics. Silicone o-rings are flexible and resistant to many acids, funguses and extreme temperatures. Silicone o-rings and seals can handle temperatures from negative 100 degrees Celsius to 310 degrees Celsius, outclassing their rubber counterparts. They’re often used in electronics, pressurized cleaning technologies, fluid processing equipment, appliance manufacturing, food processing and production, medical and scientific device production, HVAC systems and construction.
Fluorosilicone includes fluorine, and it’s resistant to jet fuel, gasoline and many other chemicals as well. It’s often used for aerospace and automotive applications.
It’s clear why silicon is so in-demand in today’s markets. Without it, modern manufacturing would be far more difficult.