Why is Silicon a Metalloid? (+ 3 More Things to Know)

Yes, silicon is considered a metalloid. Silicon is classified as a metalloid because it shows properties of both metals and nonmetals. 1 It possesses some metallic characteristics, such as being a semiconductor with moderate electrical conductivity, while also exhibiting nonmetallic properties, such as being brittle and having a shiny appearance.

Well, this was just a simple answer. But there are few more things to know about this topic which will make your concept super clear.

So let’s dive right into it.

Key Takeaways: Why is Silicon a Metalloid?

  • Silicon is a metalloid because it exhibits properties of both metals and nonmetals.
  • Silicon differs from other metalloids in several ways, including its abundance and occurrence, application as a semiconductor, crystalline structure, biological role, and oxidation states.
  • Silicon has a wide range of uses based on its metalloid properties, including in the semiconductor industry, solar energy, glass and ceramics, chemical industry, construction materials, and agriculture.

Explanation: Why is silicon a metalloid?

Silicon is often categorized as a metalloid because it exhibits properties of both metals and nonmetals. Metalloids are elements that have intermediate characteristics between metals and nonmetals. 2

Here are some reasons why silicon is considered a metalloid:

  • Electrical conductivity: Silicon is a semiconductor, which means its electrical conductivity falls between that of a metal and a nonmetal. 3 It can conduct electricity under certain conditions, but not as effectively as most metals.
  • Chemical reactivity: Silicon shows some similarities to nonmetals in terms of its chemical reactivity. It readily forms covalent bonds with other elements, similar to nonmetals like carbon. 4 5
  • Structure: Silicon has a crystalline structure similar to that of metals. It forms a regular lattice arrangement of atoms, which is a characteristic feature of metals. However, its lattice is less compact compared to pure metals.
  • Physical properties: Silicon has a metallic luster and is a solid at room temperature, which are typical properties of metals. However, it is brittle like nonmetals, rather than malleable and ductile like most metals. 6

How does silicon differ from other metalloids?

Silicon differs from other metalloids in several ways. While silicon shares some similarities with other metalloids, such as germanium and arsenic, there are distinct differences that set it apart. Here are a few ways in which silicon differs from other metalloids:

  • Abundance and occurrence: Silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, making up about 28% of its composition by weight. 7 It is widely distributed and commonly found in minerals such as quartz and silicates. In contrast, other metalloids like germanium and arsenic are relatively rare in comparison.
  • Application as a semiconductor: Silicon is primarily known for its extensive use in the electronics industry as a semiconductor material. Its unique electrical properties, combined with its abundance and manufacturability, have made it the material of choice for the production of computer chips and other electronic devices. This application sets silicon apart from other metalloids. 8
  • Crystalline structure: Silicon has a diamond-like crystal structure, which is distinct from the structures of other metalloids. 9 This structure contributes to its semiconductor properties and makes it an important building block for the fabrication of integrated circuits.
  • Biological role: Silicon is essential for the growth and development of some organisms, including certain types of plants and diatoms (single-celled algae). Silicon’s involvement in biological processes sets it apart from other metalloids, which generally do not play significant roles in living organisms.
  • Oxidation states: Silicon commonly forms compounds in the +4 oxidation state, such as silicon dioxide (silica). In contrast, other metalloids like arsenic and antimony can exhibit a wider range of oxidation states, including both positive and negative states.

Uses of silicon based on its metalloid properties

Silicon, as a metalloid, possesses properties that make it valuable for a range of applications. Here are some uses of silicon based on its metalloid properties:

  • Semiconductor industry: Silicon’s most significant application is in the semiconductor industry. Its ability to act as a semiconductor, neither a complete conductor nor insulator, makes it ideal for the production of computer chips, transistors, solar cells, and other electronic components. 10 Silicon wafers are used as a substrate for fabricating integrated circuits and microchips.
  • Solar energy: Silicon is a key component in the manufacturing of photovoltaic (PV) cells used in solar panels. 11 These cells convert sunlight into electricity. Silicon’s semiconductor properties allow it to efficiently absorb photons and generate an electric current. The widespread use of silicon in solar energy systems has contributed to the growth of renewable energy sources.
  • Glass and ceramics: Silicon dioxide, commonly known as silica or quartz, is a major component of glass and ceramics. Silica provides strength, heat resistance, and transparency to glass products. It is used in the production of various items like windows, lenses, optical fibers, and laboratory glassware. Silicon carbide, a compound of silicon, is also used in high-temperature ceramics, abrasives, and refractory materials.
  • Chemical industry: Silicon-based compounds have diverse applications in the chemical industry. For example, silanes, which are compounds consisting of silicon and hydrogen, are used as precursors in the production of silicones, lubricants, and water repellents. Silica gel, a porous form of silica, is widely used as a desiccant to absorb moisture. 12
  • Construction materials: Silicon-based materials find application in construction. Silicones, derived from silicon, are used as sealants, adhesives, and waterproofing agents due to their flexibility, stability, and resistance to extreme temperatures. Silicones are also used in electrical insulation, automotive parts, and medical devices.
  • Agriculture: Silicon has been found to be beneficial in agriculture. It can enhance plant health and resistance to stressors such as pests, diseases, and drought. Silicon-based fertilizers or soil amendments are used to provide plants with available silicon, improving their growth and resilience. 13 14 15

These are just a few examples of the uses of silicon based on its metalloid properties. Silicon’s unique combination of electrical, chemical, and physical properties makes it a versatile material with widespread applications across industries.

Further reading

Is Sulfur a Metal?
Is Aluminum a Transition Metal?
Is Aluminum a Metal, Nonmetal or Metalloid?
Is Lead a Transition Metal?
Is Zinc a Transition Metal? 

About author

Jay is an educator and has helped more than 100,000 students in their studies by providing simple and easy explanations on different science-related topics. He is a founder of Pediabay and is passionate about helping students through his easily digestible explanations.

Read more about our Editorial process.


  1. Vernon, R. E. (2013, October 29). Which Elements Are Metalloids? Journal of Chemical Education, 90(12), 1703–1707. https://doi.org/10.1021/ed3008457
  2. Metalloid – Wikipedia. (n.d.). Metalloid – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metalloid
  3. Semiconductor – Wikipedia. (2020, November 27). Semiconductor – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semiconductor
  4. 3.6: Covalent Compounds – Formulas and Names. (2020, June 2). Chemistry LibreTexts. https://chem.libretexts.org/Courses/El_Paso_Community_College/CHEM1306%3A_Health_Chemistry_I_(Rodriguez)/03%3A_Compounds-How_Elements_Combine/3.06%3A_Covalent_Compounds_-_Formulas_and_Names
  5. Ionic and Covalent Bonding. (n.d.). Ionic and Covalent Bonding. https://chem.fsu.edu/chemlab/chm1045/bonding.html
  6. Silicon – Wikipedia. (2019, August 22). Silicon – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon
  7. Silicon | Element, Atom, Properties, Uses, & Facts. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/silicon
  8. UCSB Science Line. (n.d.). UCSB Science Line. http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=4527
  9. Princeton.edu https://www.princeton.edu/~maelabs/mae324/glos324/silicon.htm
  10. Segal, M. (2012, March). Material history: Learning from silicon. Nature, 483(7389), S43–S44. https://doi.org/10.1038/483s43a
  11. Solar Photovoltaic Cell Basics. (n.d.). Energy.gov. https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/solar-photovoltaic-cell-basics
  12. What is silica gel and why do I find little packets of it in everything I buy? (2000, April 1). What Is Silica Gel and Why Do I Find Little Packets of It in Everything I Buy? | HowStuffWorks. https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/science-questions/question206.htm
  13. Cuong, T. X., Ullah, H., Datta, A., & Hanh, T. C. (2017, September). Effects of Silicon-Based Fertilizer on Growth, Yield and Nutrient Uptake of Rice in Tropical Zone of Vietnam. Rice Science, 24(5), 283–290. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rsci.2017.06.002
  14. Tayade, R., Ghimire, A., Khan, W., Lay, L., Attipoe, J. Q., & Kim, Y. (2022, July 25). Silicon as a Smart Fertilizer for Sustainability and Crop Improvement. Biomolecules, 12(8), 1027. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom12081027
  15. FS1278: Silicon Needs of Soils and Crops (Rutgers NJAES). (2017, October 1). FS1278: Silicon Needs of Soils and Crops (Rutgers NJAES). https://njaes.rutgers.edu/fs1278/

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top