Silicon: A Closer Look At The Material

Silicon: A Closer Look At The Material

Postby koimaster » May 7th 2018, 8:08am

Silicon: A Closer Look At The Material That Unleashed A Refreshing Range Of Haute Horlogerie Ideas

by Timothy Treffry

Following the recent article on silicon balance springs by watchmaker Ashton Tracy called Is Silicon Here To Stay In (Rolex) Watch Movements?, I wanted to take a closer look at the intriguing material from which they are made and how they are made.

Silicon is, after oxygen, the most abundant material on earth. In its pure crystalline form it is the basis of the microelectronics industry: our smart phones, televisions, and computers. And it has given its name to one of the most affluent areas in the world: California’s Silicon Valley.

The production of crystalline silicon is a fascinating process.

It takes 24-48 hours to grow the silicon cylinder from which all begins. The formation is initiated by what’s known as a seed crystal, the silicon cylinder – or “boule” – is marked with an “orientation flat.”

Silicon lies immediately below carbon in the periodic table and, as we would expect, has similar properties. It is tetravalent, meaning it likes to form links with four other atoms or ions. Pure silicon readily forms large crystals in which each silicon atom is linked to four others in what is known as a cubic lattice. This is the same lattice structural arrangement as diamond.


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