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Although it may appear that the words silicon and silicone can be used interchangeably, there are some significant differences between them. Silicon is a natural chemical element found in great abundance on Earth, primarily as a major component of common sand. Silicon is generally found in a crystalline form. Silicone is a man-made substance derived from silicon and other chemicals, and it may be a liquid or a rubber-like plastic polymer.

One major difference between silicon and silicone is their commercial use. Pure silicon is an ideal semi-conductor, like the more expensive element germanium. It is possible to heat silicon into a molten state and then form it into wafers. These semi-conductive wafers can then be used as a base for the intricate and microscopic electronic circuitry required for computer processing. This relationship between silicon and the technology industry inspired the nickname for the California high-tech region known as Silicon Valley.

Silicone, on the other hand, is used for a number of other industrial applications. Liquid silicone is often used as a lubricant for machine parts, for example. A thicker form of rubberized silicone can also be used as a waterproof sealant around windows and other gaps. Cured silicone is flexible, moisture-resistant and transparent.

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