Silicon Compounds - Biological Role

Biological Role

Although silicon is readily available in the form of silicates, very few organisms have a use for it. Diatoms, radiolaria and siliceous sponges use biogenic silica as a structural material to construct skeletons. In more advanced plants, the silica phytoliths (opal phytoliths) are rigid microscopic bodies occurring in the cell; some plants, for example rice, need silicon for their growth. Although silicon was proposed to be an ultra trace nutrient, its exact function in the biology of animals is still under discussion. Higher organisms are only known to use it in very limited occasions in the form of silicic acid and soluble silicates.

Silicon is known to be needed for synthesis of elastin and collagen; the aorta contains the highest quantity of elastin and silicon.

Silicon is currently under consideration for elevation to the status of a "plant beneficial substance by the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO)." Silicon has been shown in university and field studies to improve plant cell wall strength and structural integrity, improve drought and frost resistance, decrease lodging potential and boost the plant's natural pest and disease fighting systems. Silicon has also been shown to improve plant vigor and physiology by improving root mass and density, and increasing above ground plant biomass and crop yields.

Hypothetical silicon-based lifeforms are the subject of silicon biochemistry, by analogy with carbon-based lifeforms. Silicon, being below carbon in the periodic table, is thought to have similar enough properties that would make silicon-based life possible, but much different from life as we know it.

Read more about this topic:  Silicon Compounds

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