What is silicon?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. You've probably heard of Silicon Valley and you probably understand that silicon is an important part of most electronic devices. But what, exactly, is silicon? Scoop up a handful of sand and you've got your answer. The main element in sand is silicon. It's also the main element in quartz. Silicon crystals don't conduct electricity. In fact, silicon is almost an insulator. But you can alter silicon through a process called doping. Doping involves the insertion of an impurity into silicon. Thanks to the impurity, silicon will do an adequate but not great job of conducting electricity. That's where we get the name "semiconductor." Most semiconductor chips and transistors are made with silicon. And pretty much anything that's computerized or uses radio wave technology requires semiconductors to function.

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