Turning Gravel into Silicon


Gravel is commonly used on driveways and run over by riding lawnmowers, but did you know that common gravel can be turned into pure silicon?

Silicon is the second most common element in the Earth’s crust but is rarely found in its pure form. Silicon is the primary element in gravel and many of the minerals that we enjoy collecting.

A manufacturing operation in Burnsville, Mississippi, takes gravel, coal, and wood chips, to produce almost pure silicon. Silicon is used in everything from paint, to cosmetics, to auto parts, to computer chips.

Mississippi Silicon began operations in 2015 on a 100 acre site on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The $200 million dollar plant is the first new silicon production plant to be built in the USA in over 40 years.

Ten percent of the silicon produced in the USA is produced at the Burnsville plant. The primary use of silicon from this location is as an alloy in aluminum used to produce automotive and aerospace parts.

The silicon produced in Burnsville must be further refined to be turned into computer chips.