Silicon: Most Abundant Element in Earth's Crust

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ement in the earth’s crust. In the earth, it is never found free, but always combined with other elements.

In 1823, the Swedish chemist Jons Jacob Berzelius was the first to isolate and describe silicon. Silicon is dark grey, hard and non-metallic and it readily forms crystals. When perfectly pure, silicon is an electrical insulator. It does not conduct electricity. It belongs to a class of material called semi conductors.

Silicon chips are tiny crystal wafers. They are the miracle products of the fast growing science of microelectronics and are commonly called silicon chips.

In 1948, as the computer age was about to dawn, three scientists at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in the United States demonstrated a device that transformed the science and technology of electronics. It was the transistor.

The most versatile form of chip is the microprocessor. This is termed the ‘Computer on a Chip’, because its electronic circuits perform the main functions of computer arithmetic, information storage and so on. Such microprocessors are the ‘brains’ inside e digital watches and pocket calculators.

Large-scale integration continues to develop. By 1980 chips were available that could hold 64000 bits of information. In computer parlance a ‘bit’ is a short version ‘binary digit’ and represents a unit of information. The 64000-bit chip is a memory device known as RAM (Random Access Memory). From this data can be retrieved in only about ten-millionths of a second.

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