silica or silicon dioxide, chemical compound, SiO2. It is insoluble in water, slightly soluble in alkalies, and soluble in dilute hydrofluoric acid. Pure silica is colorless to white. It occurs in several forms and is widely and abundantly distributed throughout the earth, both in the pure state and in silicates, e.g., in quartz (agate, amethyst, chalcedony, flint, jasper, onyx, and rock crystal), opal, sand, sandstone, clay, granite, and many other rocks; in skeletal parts of various protists and animals, such as certain sarcodines (see Sarcodina), diatoms, and sponges, and in the stems and other tissue of higher plants. Silica has many important uses. It is used as a filler for paint and rubber; in making ordinary glass; in ceramics; in construction; and in the preparation of other substances, e.g., silicon carbide. Fused quartz is pure amorphous silica; it is used in special chemical and optical apparatus. Because it has a low thermal coefficient of expansion, it withstands sudden changes in temperature and can be used in parts that are subjected to wide ranges of heat and cold. Unlike ordinary glass, it does not absorb infrared and ultraviolet light.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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