top of page


What Is Silicon And Where Do I Use It?

  • Silicon metal (symbol Si), in its pure form, is a grey metallically lustrous metalloid element. Metallurgical grade silicon is known as silicon metal because of its lustrous appearance.


  • The main uses of silicon metal are in the aluminium and chemical industries (BRGM, 2021). In addition, silicon metal is a strategic raw material used in the renewable energy (photovoltaic industry), in electronic devices, and -with a growing demand in batteries. Silicon metal is listed on the EU critical and strategic raw materials lists 2023.


Where is Silicon Produced?

  • The global production of silicon metal in 2022 reached around 4.5 Mt.


  • The global producers of silicon are China 77%, Brazil 7%, Norway 6%, France 4%, Russia 2%, Canada 1%, USA 1% and Germany 1%.


  • Within Europe, the producing countries are France, Spain, Germany, Slovakia, Norway, Bosnia and Icelandproducing around 400 kt in 2022.

Silicon metal applications

Chemical applications include:

  • Silicon metal is used to produce silicones, synthetic silica and silanes. Silicone products such as surfactants, lubricant, sealants and adhesives are used in various sectors including construction (e.g., in insulating rubbers), industrial processes (e.g. as an antifoam agent in the oil and gas industry), and in personal care (e.g. cosmetics) and transport (CES, 2016). Silanes are used in the glass, ceramic, foundry and painting industries (European Commission, 2014; Euroalliages, 2016).

Technical applications include:

  • Aluminium alloys. Silicon is dissolved in molten aluminium to improve the viscosity of the liquid aluminium and to improve the mechanical properties of aluminium alloys.

  • Solar cells. Ultrahigh-purity grade silicon is used for the production of solar panels. Silicon solar cells are the most common cells used in commercially available solar panels.


  • Electronics. Ultra-high purity grade silicon is used extensively in electronic devices such as silicon semiconductors, transistors, printed circuit boards and integrated circuits. Semiconductor-grade silicon metal used in making computer chips is crucial to modern technology (European Commission, 2014; Euroalliages, 2016).


  • Batteries. Currently, only less than 1 kt of silicon metal is used for the graphite anodes of lithium-ion-batteries. This amount and its share on the overall silicon metal demand is expected to increase significantly within the next decade (BRGM, 2021).


  • Other applications of silicon metal include explosives, refractories and ceramics.


Specific Issues for Silicon

  • Silicon metal is absolutely necessary to the production of aluminium and chemical products since it provides them with essential properties. A wide range of modern technologies depend on this material.

  • Silicon metal cannot be substituted and there is no recycling of (pure) Silicon. Few pilot projects in France and Germany are recovering silicon metal from solar applications and we see a growing demand as solar panels are now getting into their end-of-life stage.

  • In particular, China is expected to continue to increase its market share among global producers in the next 5 years, following the same trend observed in the past years. This trend may be explained by recurrent dumping practices favored by a production overcapacity that has already reached 7 Mt in 2020 and is expected to increase by another 6 Mt before 2025, all this compared to a worldwide Silicon consumption of about 3Mt. The production of Silicon in China is also associated with human rights concerns where it is produced with forced labor by the Uyghurs in the XinJiang region and often using coal as a source of power for electricity. 

  • Growth in the silicon metal market is expected to continue in the coming years, led by increased demand from regular aluminium and chemical applications, fast growing solar industry, and promising battery market demand.

  • There is no level playing field between the EU and its main competing regions in terms of policy in the energy, climate and environment fields. European Silicon metal producers are faced with fierce and often unfair competition from third countries although their production is the most environmental and climate friendly worldwide The still existing Europe-based commodity production must be preserved if the EU wants to avoid exposing its main economic value chains and sectors to a total dependence vis-à-vis external raw materials supply.



bottom of page