A Brief Introduction to the Players
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Any undertaking on silica requires first setting a few terms straight, namely silicon, silica, silicic acid, silicate, and silicone. Even scientists get these words confused. So here it is stripped down to bare bone: Silicon is the element. Silica refers to a tetrahedron formed by one silicon atom bound to four oxygen atoms or to material consisting pretty much entirely of such tetrahedra. Silicic acid (also known as dissolved silica and dissolved silicate) consists of silica tetrahedra dissolved in water. Silicate is anything that contains silicon in a compound that acts as a negatively charged species (this means silica tetrahedra and silica tetrahedra where atoms of elements like aluminum have substituted in for some of the atoms of oxygen). Silicone covers a whole slew of silicon-containing organic compounds, generally man-made (and put to a variety of uses, such as lubricants, sealants, and novelty ice cube trays).