Silicon is the fourteenth element of the periodic table and is a Group IVA element, along with carbon germanium, tin and lead. Pure silicon is a dark gray solid with the same crystalline structure as diamond. Its chemical and physical properties are similar to this material. Silicon has a melting point of 2570°F (1410°C), a boiling point of 4271°F (2355°C), and a density of 2.33 g/cm3
Silicon is the eighth most common element in the universe by mass, but very rarely occurs as the pure element in the Earth's crust. It is most widely distributed in dusts, sands, planetoids, and planets as various forms of silicon dioxide (silica) or silicates. Over 90% of the Earth's crust is composed of silicate minerals, making silicon the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust (about 28% by mass) after oxygen. Most silicon is used commercially without being separated, and often with little processing of the natural minerals. Such use includes industrial construction with clays, silica sand, and stone. Silicates are used in Portland cement for mortar and stucco, and mixed with silica sand and gravel to make concrete for walkways, foundations, and roads. They are also used in white ware ceramics such as porcelain, and in traditional quartz-based soda-lime glass and many other specialty glasses.
Silicon is the second most common element in the Earth’s crust, although it is hard to find it in nature as a pure element. China is by far the world’s largest producer of silicon, including thereby silicon content for ferrosilicon and silicon metal. Around 4.6 million metric tons of silicon was produced in China in 2016 which accounted for about two-thirds of global production that year, which reached about 7.2 million metric tons. Other major producers are Russia, the United States, and Brazil.
Silicon based polymers, known as silicones, provide an alternative to environmentally harmful hydrocarbon based products. We unknowingly use these polymers in everyday items from lubricants, greases and resins to skin and hair care products, antiperspirants, polishes, anti-foam agents and fabric softeners.
· Silicon Chips: The electronic products that we rely on every day cannot operate without semi-conductor chips made from silicon.
· Optical Glass: Today’s modern high-speed communications are made possible by silicon. Optical glass produced from silicon is used to manufacture both optical fibre and liquid crystal displays.
· Solar Energy: Silicon plays an important role in the photovoltaic industries. Solar panels, made from silicon, use the sun’s rays to generate space and water heating, produce domestic and industrial electricity and power remote telecommunications, weather and irrigation facilities.
The silicon metal market was valued at over 2.9 million ton, and the market is projected to register a CAGR of 4% during the period of (2021-2026). Silicon metal is the base material for so many products; hence, it has an important role in industrial and consumer sectors. Presently, the use of silicon metal for producing aluminum alloys holds the largest share in the total silicon metal production. Aluminum alloys are used in producing automotive components and aerospace products.
COVID-19 has affected both the demand and supply of silicon all around the world. Due to restrictions, there could not be a regular material supply, while most of the silicon metal plants stopped production temporarily. The price reversal due to COVID-19 and the recent commerce imposition of preliminary duties on all silicon metal imports may further affect the market negatively. As a whole there is a good scope for new entrepreneur to invest in this business.
Few Indian major players
1. Gravita India Ltd.
2. Kothari Metals Ltd.
3. Oswal Minerals Ltd.
4. Singhania Minerals Pvt. Ltd.
5. Welcome Impex Pvt. Ltd.