A reader has observed confusion between the words silicon and silicone and has asked for a post to illustrate the difference.
Silicon (chemical symbol Si) is a non-metallic element that ranks next to oxygen in respect of abundance in the ground.
Silicone is a chemical compound that contains silicon.
The teeny plates that contain a set of electronic circuits are usually made of silicon. Because so many silicon chip manufacturers located their facilities in the Santa Clara Valley south of San Francisco, the area came to be known as “Silicon Valley.”
Silicone has a great many different applications for everything from breast implants to spacecraft assembly. It’s used in the manufacture of textiles, paint, cosmetics, and cookware with non-stick surfaces.
Here are some examples from the Web in which the words appear to be unintentionally reversed:
Plan your busy social life with this fun planner from the Silicone Valley collection. —a stationery site.
Social Media Goes to Washington — Obama Heads to Silicone Valley —a news site.
Some years ago, when silicon baking wares came out, I jumped on them with glee. —a personal blog.
Sometimes, the “error” is deliberate. For example, an episode of the television series Botched is called “Silicone Valley.” It’s about a woman who has had numerous plastic surgeries with horrific results.
An article in Newsweek is headed “Home: It’s Silicone Valley.” The article is about silicone cookware.
A car wash located in Miami, Florida is called “Silicone Valley Car Wash.” Silicone is an ingredient in some car waxes.
If you are referring to the element, the valley, or computer chips, spell the word silicon. For products or applications, spell it silicone.