Gold, silver, platinum, and palladium. From jewelry to electronics, these precious metals are rare and have great economic value. Silicon metal isn’t precious, and its ingredients are commonly found in Earth’s crust. Yet, silicon metal is incredibly valuable because it’s a major ingredient in silicone rubber, solar panels, electric vehicles, semiconductor chips, aluminum, defense technologies – and much more.
Today, China refines 70% of the world’s silicon metal. The United States refines only 5%. Although the U.S. government is recognizing the importance of increasing our refining capacity, it takes years to build silicon metal refineries – and the refining process requires a great deal of energy. Meanwhile, demand for silicon metal is expected to grow 50% over the next 5 to 10 years.
Do we want to depend on China for our supply of silicon metal? For that matter, do we want to depend on overseas suppliers for PDMS, an important member of the silicone family? Most PDMS production has left North America for Asia, but demand for silicone keeps growing. That’s why members of the silicone industry, myself included, are asking the U.S. government to take bold action.
What can you do as a silicone buyer? Whenever possible, please choose products and materials that are Made in USA. Your buying decisions will help spur investments in domestic capacity, and you’ll get quality silicones with ingredients you can trust.