Silicon, discovering the secrets
When we think about the scale of the world, the magnitude of the problems facing the planet, the enormity of the universe...it would be fair to think that how can one small person, or a tiny thing have any impact on change.
But, it’s true that something as small as a grain of sand can be significant enough to change the course of history. Something seemingly inconsequential and uninspiring, something that surrounds us and we look past every day…can turn out to be the one thing that changes everything.
In a series of articles, we explore the qualities of one single element, that has done just that.
So, what is this Silicon that we at Good Science Beauty are so passionate about?
Well, truth be told, first and foremost - without it, you would not be reading this article on your phone, or computer! But, more on that further down.
Firstly, what is it?
It is the 7th most abundant element in the universe and the 2nd on earth, only behind Oxygen. It is believed that over 25% of the earth’s crust is Silicon. Silicon is so abundant within soil that it becomes a key mineral substrate for the world’s plant life, similar to potassium and calcium. Plants use silicon as a nutrient that helps strengthen their cell walls, supporting disease prevention.
French Chemist Antoine Lavoisier was one of the first scientists to suggest there may be a new element in Quartz in 1789. Jons Jakob Berzelius first isolated the element S14 in 1824. These men were among the founders of modern chemistry. The name Silicon was taken from the latin Silicus meaning “flint”, a mineral that contains Silicon and was named by Scottish chemist - Thomas Thompson.
Silicon is some way responsible for white sandy beaches, and it also helps give the gemstone Opal it’s iridescent finish. However, it rarely occurs in pure form in nature as it readily bonds with other elements. It will appear in mineral form such as silica sand, flint, (Silicon + Oxygen = Silicon Dioxide (SiO2). As Silica it is a key component in bricks, glass, pottery, and also used in concrete.
How Silicon Changed our Lives
So, how does something as tiny as a grain of sand change the world? Well, now we know. Silicon dioxide - a compound of Silicon + Oxygen is that grain of sand.
Elemental Silicon is a metalloid - it has metal and non-metal characteristics, it is a semiconductor, which means it can channel electricity in certain conditions and act as an insulator in others.
The discovery of the potential of being able to process Silicon into a purified molten state, creating semi-conductive wafers to serve as the base for circuits ‘microchips’ was the revelation that changed the course of history for mankind. Silicon Valley in San Francisco Bay was named as it became a centre of concentration for companies producing silicon-based semiconductors and chips.
While we take great pains to point out that Silicon and Silicone are not the same thing, one could not exist without the other!
Silicone is a man-made polymer that combines silicon + oxygen along with other elements, typically carbon and hydrogen. Silicone has been put to safe, good use in the medical world - in catheters, contact lenses. Silicone has good heat resistant properties, so it is implemented within the culinary world as a lubricant, used in the automotive industry and also used for sensorial skin-feel qualities. It is also seen in many beauty products.
But for us, Silicon and it’s strengthening, stabilizing natural power is our passion. Why has its merits in the general dialogue around skin health and beauty been overlooked? Ease of process? Scientific capability to utilize efficiently and optimize the benefits? Perhaps. We are familiar with other elements that have become more regularly referenced - magnesium, copper, zinc and so on, but less so with Silicon.
But in a world where we are continually seeking sustainable, abundant resources to suit our consumption and solve our skin needs, Silicon represents a wonderful commodity that can be mined with minimal disruption to the natural world in terms of environmental impact and, when harnessed by GOOD SCIENCE, we can create simply extraordinary things.
In the next article we explore how GSB uses SILICON and how a brand is founded on one ingredient’s ability to change the course of skin health.