Is silicon flammable?

Why can't silicon exist in an oxygen enviroment?
Malerie 10/07/99

Vocabulary
congener*

Silicon, like its congener, carbon, is fairly inert. Like carbon, silicon will burn vigorously in oxygen if ignited to produce silica:

Si(s) + O2(g) = SiO2(s)

Silicon ignites if heated to temperatures around 1000°C. But saying that silicon can't exist in an oxygen environment is like saying a charcoal briquet can't exist in air.

Burning silicon releases about 860 kJ of heat per mole, compared to 394 kJ per mole for burning carbon, so a silicon fire could potentially burn quite a bit hotter than a carbon fire.

Author: Fred Senese senese@antoine.frostburg.edu



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