What is Silicon?
Silicon: the in-between element praised for its flexibility
Ranked between metals and non-metals in the periodic table, silicon (Si) belongs to the metalloids family. Silicon is the most abundant element in the Earth's crust after oxygen (O) but it does not naturally exist in a free state on Earth. Commonly found in the form of oxides, it is one of the main components of clay, granite, quartz and sand.
Although some of its compounds have been known since antiquity, it was not until 1823 that the Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius managed to obtain silicon in its pure form and identify its characteristics. In Latin, its name means stone.
Its applications are varied. Silicon is used in the manufacture of glass, ceramics, silicones, optical fibers, etc.
In its purest form – up to 99.99999...% purity – its semiconductor properties are used in photovoltaic panel cells to convert solar energy into electricity and it boasts numerous applications in the field of electronics.
Decades of experience to improve the lifespan of tires
Solvay produces hundreds of thousands of tonnes of precipitated silica from sand and sodium carbonate every year. Silica or silicon dioxide (SiO2), one of the compounds of silicon, is notably a crucial element in the highly complex composition of tires. Thanks to its decades of experience, Solvay's teams have been able to fully understand the effects of silica on the mechanical properties of elastomers and rubber. They know how to design the architecture of silica in order to adapt its morphology, interface and dispersion within the tire to obtain the desired properties. The first “green tire” using silica was co-developed by Solvay with Michelin back in 1992. Today, Solvay’s new grade of silica, Premium SW, directly contributes to reducing CO2 emissions from cars. And by improving the lifespan of tires, it also reduces resource consumption and pollution.