Silicon Compounds - History

History

Attention was first drawn to silica as the possible oxide of a fundamental chemical element by Antoine Lavoisier, in 1787. After an attempt to isolate silicon in 1808, Sir Humphry Davy proposed the name "silicium" for silicon, from the Latin silex, silicis for flint, flints, and adding the "-ium" ending because he believed it was a metal. In 1811, Gay-Lussac and Thénard are thought to have prepared impure amorphous silicon, through the heating of recently isolated potassium metal with silicon tetrafluoride, but they did not purify and characterize the product, nor identify it as a new element. Silicon was given its present name in 1817 by Scottish chemist Thomas Thomson. He retained part of Davy's name but added "-on" because he believed that silicon was a nonmetal similar to boron and carbon. In 1823, Berzelius prepared amorphous silicon using approximately the same method as Gay-Lussac (potassium metal and potassium fluorosilicate), but purifying the product to a brown powder by repeatedly washing it. As a result he is usually given credit for the element's discovery.

Silicon in its more common crystalline form was not prepared until 31 years later, by Deville. By electrolyzing impure sodium-aluminum chloride containing approximately 10% silicon, he was able to obtain a slightly impure allotrope of silicon in 1854. Later, more cost-effective methods have been developed to isolate silicon in several allotrope forms, the most recent being silicene.

Because silicon is an important element in semiconductors and high-technology devices, many places in the world bear its name. For example, Silicon Valley in California, since it is the base for a number of technology-related industries, bears the name silicon. Other geographic locations with connections to the industry have since been named after silicon as well. Examples include Silicon Forest in Oregon, Silicon Hills in Austin, Texas, Silicon Saxony in Germany, Silicon Valley in India, Silicon Border in Mexicali, Mexico, Silicon Fen in Cambridge, England, Silicon Roundabout in London, Silicon Glen in Scotland, and Silicon Gorge in Bristol, England.

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