Silicon: a unifying theme for concepts and applications

Published: June 29, 2017

The 48th Silicon Symposium returned to Philadelphia in June to continue the long tradition of connecting academia and industry, and to discuss latest developments and new applications in silicon chemistry.

Hosted by Temple University and Gelest, the symposium showcased the transition from small molecule synthesis to today’s interdisciplinary and global field. Nearly 200 researchers attended this year’s symposium, which was held at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, with accompanying tutorials at Temple University.

Leaders in academia and industry gave well-attended tutorials on both synthesis and applications in silicon chemistry. A General Introduction to Silicon Chemistry and Organo-Silanes in Organic Synthesis was led by Alan Bassindale of the Open University (UK) and Gerald Larson of Gelest. An Introduction to Silicon and Polymer Science was led by Judy Riffle of Virginia Tech and François Ganachaud of CNRS France. Michael Sailor of the University of California, San Diego led a hands-on tutorial covering Silicon Nanotechnology. Silicones Used in Coloured Cosmetic Products was led by Anjali Patil from Chanel and Jane Hollenberg from JHC Consulting.

The symposium’s scientific program comprised of numerous lectures and posters. Sessions in the 2-day symposium included: Low Valent/Multiple-Bonded Silicon, Band Gap and Nanotechnology, Silicon Oxygen Chemistry, Siloxane Polymers and Elastomers, Silicon Mediated Organic Synthesis, Silicon Chemistry and Catalysis, and Applied Technology. Proceedings from the symposium can be found here.

News from the Symposium

Two themes emerged during the Nanofabrication and Bandgap section of the 48th Silicon Symposium: Advances in photoluminescent materials and Molecular Layer Deposition (MLD) techniques for modifying nano-structures.

Controlled formation and stabilization of photoluminescent silicon and silicon oxycarbide nanostructures have been achieved by new synthetic routes or with new passivation technologies. Dr Spiros Gallis (College of Nanoscale Science, SUNY Polytechnic Institute) reported on high photoluminescence yield silicon carbide nanowire arrays formed from volatile carbosilanes which, when erbium doped, showed nearly two orders of magnitude greater emission in the telecommunications transmission range than previously reported. Dr Mike Sailor (University of California, San Diego) reported on the formation of photoluminescent porous silicon that can be loaded with enzymes and passivated, enabling tracing during delivery of biomolecules in in vivo applications. Dr Phil Boudjouk (North Dakota State University) and Dr Brian Korgel (University of Texas, Austin) in separate presentations demonstrated new approaches to the formation of silicon quantum dots and silicon nanocrystal assemblies from volatile higher polysilanes.

Three different groups reported examples of a new molecular layer deposition (MLD) technique based on cyclic azasilane ‘click chemistry’. Ms Ling Ju (Department of Materials Science and Nanotechnology, Lehigh University) reported on dielectric films formed by MLD. Dr Mike Sailor (University of California, San Diego) utilized MLD with cyclic azasilanes for the passivation of photoluminescent porous silicon. Dr Youlin Pan (Gelest) reported on the high-speed reactions of cyclic azasilanes for MLD, and demonstrated their efficiency in tandem coupling reactions.

Significant developments in Silicon-Mediated Organic Synthesis included Keith Woerpel and Jillian Sanzone (New York University) reporting on the preparation and reactions of trans-oxasilacycloheptenes, in particular the uncatalyzed carboboration, which led to a highly diastereoselective synthesis of 2,4-disubstituted-1,3,5-pentanetriols. Donald Watson and Sarah Krause (University of Delaware) presented a readily prepared, stable Pd catalyst that brings about the Silyl-Heck reaction leading to the synthetically important vinylsilanes.


The conference was considered highly successful by all attendees. Most noteworthy was the observation that while the chemistry of silicon is a core of the conference, silicon is a unifying theme for a breadth of interests and applications. In fact, silicon as a key and tool for broader technologies has become a central theme of the conference.

The intimacy of the conference, along with the tutorials and workshops, led to a useful exchange of knowledge and ideas, and a very optimistic outlook for the future. Not only did attendees advance knowledge in their own areas of interest, but they participated in areas new to them. Great examples were synthetic chemists who had true hands on experience – touch and feel – in the personal care session, and theoretical chemists that had the opportunity to fabricate a photoluminescent device by electrochemical synthesis.

Visit later this year for information about the 49th Silicon Symposium.





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