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Silicon around us

  Silicon is probably essential in higher plants and possibly in mammals. Diatoms, some protozoans, some sponges and some plants use silicon dioxide (SiO2) as a structural material. Silicon is known to be required by chicks and rats for the growth and development of the skeleton. Silicon is not particularly toxic, but finely divided silicates or silica cause major damage to the lungs.

  Silicon is not found in nature, but occurs primarily as oxide and as silicates. Sand, quartz, rock crystal, amethyst, agate, flint, jasper and opal are all oxides of silicon. Granite, hornblende, asbestos, feldspar, clay, mica are some of the many silicate minerals. Silicon represents 25.7% of the Earth's crust by weight and is the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust. Silicon is present in the sun and stars and is a major component of a class of meteorites known as aerolites.