Silicon metal (PCC BakkiSilicon)

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Silicon metal (PCC BakkiSilicon)
Silicon metal (PCC BakkiSilicon)
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Silicon metal is used, among other things, as an aluminium alloyant; it is also employed in the chemicals industry for the manufacture of siloxanes and silicones. Silicon metal can also be used as essential material in the electronics and solar industries (silicon chips, semi-conductors,solar panels). It can improve the already useful properties of aluminum such as castability, hardness and strength.

Adding silicon metal to aluminium alloys makes them light and strong. So, they are increasingly used in the automotive industry. Used to replace heavier cast iron parts. Automotive parts such as engine blocks and tire rims are the most common cast aluminum silicon parts.

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Properties and applications
  • aluminium alloyant (e.g. high-strength aluminum alloys for the automotive industry),
  • manufacture of siloxanes and silicones,
  • primary input material in the manufacture of photovoltaic modules,
  • production of electronic grade silicon,
  • production of synthetic amorphous silica,
  • other industrial applications.

Alternative names
Silicon metal, Silicon, silicon metal

Manufacturer: PCC BakkiSilicon hf.

PCC BakkiSilicon hf. with its registered office in Iceland, deals with the production of silicon-metal from one of the most advanced production facilities in the world, utilizing 100% geothermal energy sources.

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Silicon metal (CAS 7440-21-3) is commonly known as metallurgical grade silicon or metallic silicon because of its shiny metallic colour. In industry it is mainly used as an aluminium alloy or a semiconductor material.

Silicon metal is also used in the chemical industry to produce siloxanes and silicones. It is considered to be a strategic raw material in many regions of the world.

The economic and application significance of silicon metal on a global scale continues to grow. Part of the market demand for this raw material is met by a producer and distributor of silicon metal – PCC BakkiSilicon hf. which conducts its business activities on the picturesque island of Iceland.

General characteristics of silicon metal

Silicon metal is also known as metallurgical silicon or, most commonly, simply as silicon. 

Silicon itself is the eighth most abundant element in the universe, but it is rarely found in pure form on Earth. The US Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) has given it the CAS number 7440-21-3.

Properties of silicon metal

  • Silicon metal in its pure form is a grey, lustrous, metalloidal element with no odour.
  • Its melting point and boiling point are very high. Metallic silicon starts melting at about 1,410°C. The boiling point is even higher and amounts to about 2,355°C.
  • The water solubility of silicon metal is so low that it is considered to be insoluble in practice.

The silicon metal offered by the manufacturer PCC BakkiSilicon is produced from quartzite (the naturally occurring mineral SiO2), coal and wood. During the production process, quartz (SiO2) is reduced by carbon (C) to silicon carbide (SiC). The silicon carbide becomes a reducing agent for the rest of the quartz that has not reacted in the electric arc produced by three electrodes.

In the initial stage of the process, production takes place in two resistance-arc furnaces, where the temperature reaches 2,000°C. Graphitised electrodes are used in the production.

The total amount of energy used by the furnaces is 25 MW. An additional 4 MW is used to operate the flue gas cleaning plant.

The final result of the process is ≥ 98.5% pure silicon metal.

A by-product of its production is microsilica, which is separated from the flue gases thanks to the special bag filters with which the factory in Iceland is equipped. Thanks to these types of filters, the dust from the air generated during the production process is almost completely removed.

The vast majority of the raw material is converted into silicon metal, so the production process generates very few solid by-products. A small part of the raw material is also obtained in the form of slag.

It is worth mentioning that microsilica, which is produced as a by-product of silicon metal production, is a popular and widely used additive for concretes and mortars. It is also used in the production of various ceramic and refractory products.

Silicon steel

Silicon steel also known as laminated steel or silicon electrical steel, is a material used in the manufacture of some magnetic cores such as rotors in transformers and motors.

Silicon steel is also an essential material for the power, electronics and defence industries.

Non-oriented electrical steel typically contains 2% – 3.5% silicon. It has similar magnetic properties in all directions, known as isotropy.

Oriented grain steel usually contains 3% silicon and is processed to achieve ideal properties in the rolling direction.

 What are the properties of silicon steel?

  • The addition of silicon improves the magnetisation of the steel and its electrical resistivity, which is the opposite of electrical conductivity. When silicon is added to iron, its resistivity increases by about 5 times.
  • The insulating coating that is often applied to fabricated steel eliminates the need to sandwich steel core sheets, e.g. transformers, with a dielectric material. The purpose of the coating is to compensate for losses caused by eddy current induction in the core.
  • Thanks to silicon steel, hysteresis losses, i.e. delays between the moment when a magnetic field is first generated or applied to the steel and the moment when the magnetic field is fully developed, are improved.
  • Silicon steel delays the corrosion of iron.

Price of silicon metal in 2022

The supply of silicon metal from domestic sources and from imports, is not sufficient to completely cover the global industrial demand. Silicon metal is globally recognised as a scarce and critical raw material.

Guaranteeing the security of a country’s raw material supply is based on securing the supply of the mineral and systematically gathering knowledge and data on the abundance of local deposits.

According to the report entitled ‘Silicon Metal Market Size & Share Report, 2020–2027’, it is mainly aluminium production that drives the demand for silicon metal.

Growing demand for silicones (especially in developing countries), may also benefit silicon metal production. Asia-Pacific plays a significant role in this regard as it is a huge processing base for silicon metal for various industries.

Demand from European producers is also high, as Europe is one of the key producers of silicones. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has left a strong mark on North American markets. This region has seen a temporary decline in the aluminium industry.

Silicon metal, which is used in the production of photovoltaic panels, will play a key role in the coming years, for example in Saudi Arabia, where a large photovoltaic project is in progress. It is expected to be completed in 2030. This huge investment, and others like it, is expected to benefit the further development of the silicon metal market.

The price of silicon metal depends on production costs. The production of 1 tonne of silicon requires about 6 tonnes of raw material, including 2.7 tonnes of quartz, 1.5 tonnes of reducing agents (low ash coal or charcoal) and 1.5 tonnes of wood.

Another important factor on which the price depends is energy. The price per kilogram of silicon metal is also controlled by the cost of other ingredients such as coal, quartz and oil.

According to research firm PRNewswire, the global silicon metal market is worth about $6.3 billion. It is expected to grow to 8.9 billion by 2027. The raw material crisis that began in 2021 has caused silicon metal prices to increase by around 300%.

Silicon metal usage

An analysis of the global market clearly shows that the importance of silicon metal is constantly growing. So, in which sectors and areas of the economy is this raw material in the highest demand? What is it used for?

  • Metallurgical silicon can be used in steel production, and as an alloying agent in aluminium casting.

 It is worth noting that aluminium-silicon car parts are lighter and stronger than parts cast from pure aluminium. Automotive parts such as engine blocks and tyre rims are the most common cast aluminium silicon parts.

  • Almost half of all metallurgical silicon is used by the chemical industry to produce fumed silica (thickening and drying agent), silanes (coupling agent) and silicone (sealants, adhesives and lubricants).
  • Photovoltaic-grade polysilicon is mainly used for the production of polysilicon solar cells.

Around five tonnes of polysilicon are needed to produce one megawatt of solar modules.

Today, polysilicon solar technology accounts for more than half of the solar energy produced worldwide.

  • Monocrystalline silicon is a key semiconductor material found in modern electronics. As a substrate material, it is used in the manufacture of field-effect transistors (FETs), LEDs and integrated circuits.

Silicon can be found in virtually all computers, mobile phones, tablets, televisions, radios and other modern communication devices.

It is estimated that more than a third of all electronic devices contain silicon-based semiconductor technology.

  • Hard silicon carbide alloy is used in a variety of electronic and non-electronic applications, including synthetic jewellery, high-temperature semiconductors, hard ceramics, cutting tools, brake discs, abrasives, bulletproof vests and heating elements.

Silicon metal in the offer of the PCC Group

The PCC Group, in its extensive product portfolio, offers different a variety of silicon metals. It is easy to find this product in the product catalogue by giving the CAS number: 7440-21-3.

The producer of silicon metal, PCC BakkiSilicon hf., is based in Iceland. The production capacity of the factory is approximately 32,000 tonnes of silicon metal per year. It has one of the most modern production facilities in the world. Importantly, 100 % of the energy used there comes from geothermal sources. Thanks to innovative solutions, the factory in Iceland is considered to be one of the most environmentally friendly. Using Iceland’s geothermal resources for energy cuts greenhouse gas emissions by around two thirds. As a result, the carbon footprint of the entire process is dramatically reduced.

By choosing silicon metal from the PCC BakkiSilicon range, customers are buying a raw material that:

  • represents the highest quality,
  • has a low carbon footprint,
  • belongs to the PCC Group products from the Greenline series,
  • is based on natural ingredients,
  • is produced in an energy-efficient technological process,
  • is a safe product.

Commercial specifications of PCC BakkiSilicon silicon metal

Commercially available products named PCC BakkiSilicon 441 or PCC BakkiSilicon 3303 denote silicon metal. The manufacturer introduces these specifications due to the different content of elemental silicon in the final product, which ranges from 97% to 99%. In addition, iron, aluminium and calcium are also present in the composition. However, these metals represent trace amounts. The aluminium content is a maximum of 0.20% – 0.50%, iron 0.20% – 1.80% and calcium 0.02% – 0.30%.

Silicon metal manufacturer, PCC BakkiSilicon offers the following forms of silicon metal:

  • silicon metal 97
  • silicon metal 553
  • silicon metal 441
  • silicon metal 3303
  • silicon metal 33017
  • silicon metal 2510
  • silicon metal 2202

Discover our full product range for silicon metal at