What is silica?

What is silica?

What is silica?

Silica is the name given to a group of minerals composed of silicon and oxygen, the two most abundant elements in the earth’s crust. Silica is found commonly in the crystalline state and rarely in an amorphous state. It is composed of one atom of silicon and two atoms of oxygen resulting in the chemical formula SiO2. The first industrial uses of crystalline silica were probably related to metallurgical and glass making activities. It has continued to support human progress throughout history, being a key raw material in the industrial development of the world especially in the glass, foundry and ceramics industries. Silica contributes to today’s information technology revolution being used in the plastics of computer mouse and providing the raw material for silicon chips. The mass of Earth’s crust is 59 percent silica, the main constituent of more than 95 percent of the known rocks. Silica has three main crystalline varieties: quartz (by far the most abundant), tridymite, and cristobalite. The silica minerals when pure are colorless and transparent and have a vitreous lustre. They are nonconductors of electricity and are diamagnetic. All are hard and strong and fail by brittle fracture under an imposed stress.

Silica has played a continuous part in man’s development and been one of the basic raw materials supporting the industrial revolution (flux and molding sand) and today’s information technology revolution.  

Silica has many uses in industry. The main ones being the glass, constructions, chemical industry, ceramics and foundries. Silica in its finest form is also used as filler in plastic, paints, rubber, and silica sand is used in agriculture and water filtration. Another specialized application is in the oil productions. Silica also is used in grinding and polishing glass and stone, in the manufacture of silicon carbide, ferrosilicon, and silicones; as a refractory material; and as gemstones.

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