Silicon tetrachloride – raw material made for innovative technologies
Nowadays, it is difficult to imagine our daily lives without widely developed technologies. Could we cope without electricity? What would be the consequences of a sudden loss of the Internet? The use of various technologies has become an inseparable element of our work, study, but also of our ordinary, everyday life. That is why a lack of access to technology would lead to serious problems. At the same time, however, scientists and environmental organisations are raising concern because the devices we use cause enormous pollution. For example, devices that provide us with network connectivity (such as modems, servers or cables) emit a total of over 300 million tons of CO2 per year. However, the scale of the pollution can be largely limited by using new, more environmentally-friendly technologies. One such method are optic fibre connections, which are manufactured using silicon tetrachloride. What exactly is this raw material? What properties characterise it and where is it used? You can read all about it in the article below.
What is silicon tetrachloride?
Silicon tetrachloride (SiCl4) is a colourless, inflammable and toxic liquid with a characteristic, irritant odour, classified among chlorosilanes. In contact with moisture, it has a corrosive effect on tissue and metals. Silicon tetrachloride is not an explosive substance, and it is not subject to oxidation. It has the capability to mix with benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, light petroleum, hydrochloric acid and toluene. The substance is compatible with such materials as: stainless steel, monel (copper and nickel alloy), carbon steel, PTFE resin, and vinylidene polyfluoride (PVDF).
The main field of application of silicon tetrachloride is in the semiconductor industry, in particular, processes such as plasma etching of metals and the production of fumed silica. It is also used as a cross-linking agent for styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR). On its basis, ultrapure silicon tetrachloride is also obtained, which is a material used in the production of, among others, fibre optic preforms.
What features distinguish ultrapure silicon tetrachloride?
The ultrapure silicon tetrachloride used in industry is a product whose purity that is declared by the manufacturer is 99.9999%. The amount of free chlorine in it does not exceed 0.2%, so it can be used as a raw material in the production of metallurgical silicon, silica, and many other substances based on silicon. Production of high-quality fumed silica is the area where the demand for the production of ultra-pure silicon tetrachloride is greatest. The product and its derivatives also form the basis for such products as:
- aerogels, used in pharmaceutical, automotive and construction industry,
- silicon anodes used in lithium-ion batteries,
- esters of orthosilicic acids, such as tetraethoxysilane and tetramethoxysilane,
- semiconductors and green technologies (optic fibre, PV cells)
Technologies of the future: production of optic fibre and PV panels
Despite the wide range of uses of silicon tetrachloride, mostly two essential areas of application of this substance are currently discussed. These are optic fibre technologies and photovoltaics. In the case of optical fibres, SiCl4 is used for the production of preforms, from which fibres are then extracted. They are responsible for fast and problem-free data transfer.
The development of fibre optic technologies helps to eliminate many devices used for traditional Internet connection and to reduce the quantities of cables used. As a result, the level of carbon dioxide emitted by servers and network accessories is significantly limited. There is one more ecological benefit of investing in optic fibre. The previously mentioned devices and kilometres of cables often end up in landfills, where they continue to pollute the environment as hazardous electro-waste.
Silicon plate is also an essential material in the production of photovoltaic cells. Monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicon is used for the production of such plates, formed on the basis of ultrapure silicon tetrachloride. For this reason, this product is a highly desirable raw material in the photovoltaic industry.
As you can see, silicon tetrachloride is very important for the development of modern technologies. By using advanced technological solutions, we can maintain access to such amenities like the Internet while taking care of the environment. That is why it is worth focusing on more ecological technologies and using high quality, reliable raw materials.
Silicon tetrachloride in the PCC Group portfolio
Both technical level purity and ultra-pure silicon tetrachloride are available in the product catalogue of the PCC Group – one of the largest manufacturers of industrial chemicals in Poland and Central and Eastern Europe. In response to the needs of many branches of modern industry, the Group offers a wide range of polyester polyols, chloroalkali, phosphorus derivatives and many other substances.
Read also about silicon metal.