The Difference Between Silicon and Silicone

Manufacturers and silicon wafer suppliers understand the difference between silicon and silicone. Laypeople, however, sometimes get confused. The confusion is understandable; there is a relationship between the two, which is reflected in the similarity of their names. However, silicon and silicone are not the same thing. Instead, one derives from the other.

What Is Silicon?

Silicon is a chemical element, ranking at number 14 on the periodic table. Though it occurs naturally, it is rarely (if ever) found in its pure form. Rather, it more often occurs in compounds. Along with oxygen, with which it readily bonds, silicon is one of the most abundant elements found in Earth’s crust. It is one of the most common components of sand, in which case it is known as silica.

Silicon is not a true metal but a metalloid. This means that it has properties of nonmetals and metals alike. This makes it a semiconductor and therefore useful in the manufacture of electronics.

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What Is Silicone?

Whereas silicon is a natural element, silicone is a synthetic substance. Silicon is used to make silicone by combining it with other elements including hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen to create a rubber-like material. Silicone is waterproof, heat resistant, flexible, nontoxic, and slippery. Therefore, it has a lot of applications in manufacturing, medicine, etc.

Silicone is often found around the house. Its non-stick properties combined with its lack of toxicity make it ideal for coating cookware. It is also found in shaving cream, shampoo, and other personal care items. Silicone does not conduct electricity, so it can be used to insulate electrical wires. People who work with their hands sometimes wear wedding rings made of silicone for safety.

Silicone implants are fairly well known, but the material has many other applications in the field of medicine. You can frequently find it in bandages, contact lenses, and catheters.

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