Silicone vs Silicon: What's The Difference?

Confused about the difference between silicone and silicon? This article will help clear things up by providing a simple overview of the two materials and their unique properties.

Silica, Silicon & Silicone: The Difference

Silica, silicon, and silicone are three distinct materials with unique properties and uses. While silica is the core resource for both silicon and silicone, they have different chemical and physical properties. Silicon is a metalloid with semiconductor properties, widely used in electronics, while silicone is a flexible, non-conductive material used in various industries. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two materials and their practical applications.

The Scientific Differences

The chemical element silicon, number 14 on the periodic table, is the second most common element inside the Earth’s crust (after oxygen). Approximately 90% of Earth’s crust is made up of silicate minerals.

Chemical and industrial applications of metalloid silicon are very important for the world’s economy. Semiconductor electronics, however, is where it finds the most use. In today’s world, almost everything that has a chip inside it has silicon semiconductors.

It is rare to find pure silicon in nature. Silica, or silicon dioxide, is often formed when silica is bound with oxygen. Silica is a major component of sand, so you have likely felt it between your toes if you have been to the beach. As a result of its abundance, it is a great building material for a variety of purposes.

Silicone is a man-made polymer composed of repeating units of siloxane – a silicon and oxygen chain; thus, silicones contain silicon. Due to their rubbery nature and low heat transfer, they’re often used as insulation.

Generally, silicone is any polymerized siloxane made up of an organic group and a siloxane chain. There are three main organic groups: methyl, ethyl, and phenyl. In addition to being a liquid, silicone can also be a flexible, waterproof solid. As a result of its heat resistance and relative inertness, this class of polymers is used in cookware and in human implants.

While still maintaining its useful properties, silicone rubber is generally non-reactive, stable, and resistant to extreme temperatures and environments.

There are a variety of properties that silicone materials must possess depending on the application. Silicone’s viscosity is controlled by its molecular weight. Silicones with a high molecular weight are rubbery, while silicones with a low molecular weight are oily. PDMS (polydimethylsiloxane) is a common silicone that repels water.

The following are some of the important properties of silicone:

  1. Low thermal conductivity
  2. Low chemical reactivity
  3. Low toxicity
  4. Thermal stability
  5. Repelling water
  6. Substrates do not stick to it
  7. Microorganisms cannot grow
  8. Electrical insulations
  9. High gas permeability
  10. UV, oxygen, and ozone resistance

Differences in Practical Use

Silicon has many industrial uses: It is used in bricks, concrete, and glass in the same way as silica. A silicate form of the element is used to make enamels, pottery and ceramics.

As a result of the concentration of silicon-based semiconductors and chips manufactured in Silicon Valley, the southern region of the San Francisco Bay Area got its name.

Silicone on the other hand is a synthetic polymer composed of silicon, oxygen, and other elements, most often carbon and hydrogen. There are a number of useful properties to silicon, including its low toxicity and high heat resistance. Silicone is generally a liquid or flexible, rubberlike plastic. The material is also good at insulating electrical currents.

Plastics such as silicone are widely used in everyday household items. It replaces polyethylene and polypropylene, which are commonly used materials.

Implants, catheters, contact lenses, bandages, and many other medical devices contain silicone. As well as shampoos and shaving cream, silicone can additionally be found in a variety of personal care products.

Since silicone is highly heat resistant, it is commonly used in kitchenware, such as oven mitts, tongs, and pan handles; silicone’s non-stick properties also lend it to cookware coatings. Also, the material has high heat resistance and slipperiness, making it an ideal lubricant for automobiles (such as lubricating grease or sprays).

Silicone is also used in other industries as a sealant and an adhesive in order to create watertight containers (e.g. aquariums) and plumbing fixtures. Similarly to silicon, silicone is an important material in electronics for making casings that protect sensitive devices from electrical shocks.

Many people question- is silicone better than plastic? It is not possible to biodegrade silicone. Good recycling practices can alleviate silicone’s biodegradability problem. There are some local recycling centres that accept silicone, but they can be extremely difficult to recycle.


Silicon is a natural chemical element, whereas silicone is a manmade product derived from silicon. As well as sand and glass, silicon is generally found in solid crystalline form. Silicone can also be a liquid lubricant, a semi-solid adhesive, or a rubber-like plastic polymer.

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