Silicon vs Silica vs Silicone

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Silicon vs Silica vs Silicone

Many assume these terms share the same definition just because they sound similar. However, they are very different in all aspects – chemical processes, applications, and manufacturing processes!

Silicon

Silicon is the second most abundant element found on Earth, after oxygen, and it makes up to 27% of the Earth’s crust.

The smallest form of an element is an atom. An atom is one unit. A silicon atom has 14 protons, 14 electrons, and 14 neutrons. The protons and neutrons are in the middle of an atom with the electrons orbiting around them.

However, it is rarely found in its original state as Silicon (Si) as it readily reacts with oxygen to form mainly Silicon Dioxide, also known as Silica and other Silicates. The four electrons in the outermost layer of the atom are responsible for the reaction. Silicon is used commonly in the semiconductors of computer chips.

Silica

Silica, also known as Silicon Dioxide, is a compound made from the reaction between Oxygen and Silicon. It is found in nature as quartz and sand. Commonly used in the manufacturing of glass, ceramics, optical fiber, and cement, Silica is also widely converted to Silica Gel, a desiccant that is used to adsorb moisture.

Silicone

Silicone is a synthetic polymer created from the combination of Silicon, Oxygen, Carbon, and Hydrogen. Unlike natural materials such as Silica and Silicon, Silicone is a human-made product manufactured in factories.

Available in forms of solid, liquid, and gel, Silicone is used as a sealant, electrical insulation, and cooking utensils.

In summary, you can remember the differences among the three terms by the following “formula”:

  • Silicon = Silicon
  • Silica = Silicon + Oxygen
  • Silicone = Silicon + Oxygen + Hydrogen and/or Carbon