Element number 14 in our International Year of the Periodic Table series is silicon. The second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, silicon is found in almost all electronic devices, glass, and in some lubricants.

Sand is silicon dioxide, and is the principal ingredient in glass. There’s more discussion of the different types of glass, and the ways in which it can be coloured, in this graphic.

Silicone oils are lubricants, which are sometimes added to cosmetics and personal care products. Silicone polymers find uses in other applications, too – they’re a key component of silly putty, and lend it its unusual properties.

Silicon’s most famed use is in integrated circuits, or chips. These are found in almost all electronic devices, and make our computers and smartphones possible. There’s more on some of the other elements found within a smartphone here.