The key difference between silicon and germanium is that the Germanium has d electrons, but Silicon does not have any d electrons.
Silicon and germanium, are both in the same group (group 14) of the periodic table. Hence, they have four electrons in the outer energy level. Moreover, they occur in two oxidation states, +2 and +4. Silicon and germanium share similar physical and chemical characteristics since both are metalloids. However, there is a considerable difference between silicon and germanium as well.
What is Silicon?
Silicon is a chemical element with atomic number 14, and it is in group 14 of the periodic table, just below carbon. We can denote it by the symbol Si. Its electron configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p2. Silicon can remove four electrons and form a +4 charged cation, or it can share these electrons to form four covalent bonds.
Moreover, we can characterize silicon as a metalloid because it has both metal and nonmetal properties. It is a hard and inert metalloid solid. The melting point of this chemical element is 1414 oC, and the boiling point is 3265 oC. Silicon in crystal form is very brittle. It exists very rarely as pure silicon in nature. Mainly, it occurs as the oxide or silicate.
Since the silicon is protected with an outer oxide layer, it is less susceptible to chemical reactions. Also, this element requires high temperatures for its oxidation. In contrast, silicon reacts with fluorine at room temperature. Furthermore, Silicon does not react with acids but reacts with concentrated alkalis.
There are lots of industrial uses of silicon. Silicon is a semiconductor, therefore, use in computers and electronic devices. There are many uses of silicon compounds like silica or silicates in ceramic, glass and cement industries.
What is Germanium?
The scientist Clemens Winkler found Germanium in 1886. We can denote this element by the symbol Ge, and its atomic number is 32. This is in the periodic table, below Si. Its electron configuration is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d10 4p2. Ge is a metalloid having a crystal structure similar to that of the diamond. It is hard, brittle and has a grey-white colour. The melting point of Ge is around 937 oC, and the boiling point is 2830 oC.
We can find Germanium naturally in the earth crust. It is present in minerals like briartite, germanite, and argyrodite. Also, it has five naturally occurring isotopes, as well. However, Ge is the most common isotope, which has 36% abundance.
Furthermore, this element is chemically and physically similar to silicon. Germanium is stable in the air and water. Also, it doesn’t react with dilute acids and alkali solutions. Like Silicon, we use Germanium also as a semiconductor material in transistors and other electronic devices. Moreover, Germanium commonly has both +4 and +2 oxidation states, but most commonly occur in +4 state. When we expose this element to air, it slowly converts to the dioxide form, GeO2.
What is the Difference Between Silicon and Germanium?
Silicon is a chemical element with atomic number 14 and chemical symbol Si while germanium is a chemical element with atomic number 32 and chemical symbol is Ge. The key difference between silicon and germanium is that Germanium has d electrons, but Silicon does not have any d electrons. Furthermore, the electrons configuration of silicon is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p2 and the electron configuration of germanium is 1s2 2s2 2p6 3s2 3p6 4s2 3d10 4p2. Therefore, as a significant difference between silicon and germanium, we can say these configurations.
Moreover, germanium atom has a larger radius than silicon. Apart from that, another notable difference between silicon and germanium is that, in certain temperatures, germanium has more free electrons than silicon. Thus, the conductivity of germanium is higher.
Summary – Silicon vs Germanium
Both silicon and germanium are useful as semiconductors. However, there are differences between silicon and germanium. The key difference between silicon and germanium is that the Germanium has d electrons, but Silicon does not have any d electrons.
1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Silicon.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 18 Jan. 2018. Available here
2. Libretexts. “Chemistry of Germanium (Z=32).” Chemistry LibreTexts, National Science Foundation, 26 Nov. 2018. Available here