A nonmetallic chemical element in the carbon family of elements. Silicon – atomic symbol “Si” – is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust, surpassed only by oxygen. Silicon does not occur uncombined in nature. Sand and almost all rocks contain silicon combined with oxygen, forming silica. When silicon combines with other elements, such as iron, aluminum or potassium, a silicate is formed. Compounds of silicon also occur in the atmosphere, natural waters, many plants and in the bodies of some animals.
Silicon is the basic material used to make computer chips, transistors, silicon diodes and other electronic circuits and switching devices because its atomic structure makes the element an ideal semiconductor. Silicon is commonly doped, or mixed, with other elements, such as boron, phosphorous and arsenic, to alter its conductive properties.
Silicon was first isolated and described as an element in 1824 by J ns Jacob Berzelius, a Swedish chemist.