The similarities and dissimilarities between carbon and silicon

Posted on: Juli 17, 2011

The similarities and dissimilarities between carbon and silicon

Carbon and Silicon differ from the remaining members of group IVA in the following respects:

1. Electronic configuration

Both of Carbon and Silicon has respectively 2 and 8 electrons (configuration of inert gas) in their penultimate shell while the other elements of this group possess 18 electrons in their penultimate shell.

2. Metallic and non metallic character

Both of Carbon and Silicon are nonmetals while Ge is a metalloid and Sn and Pb are metals.

3. Valency

Both C and Si show tetravalency and do not give tetravalent or bivalent ions (M4+ or M2+ ions). On the other hand Ge,Sn and Pb show tetracovalency as well as form bivalent ions, Ge2+, Sn2+ and Pb2+.

4. Oxidation states

Both C and Si show an oxidation state of +4 only while Ge, Sn and Pb show two types of oxidation states which are +2 and +4.

5. Catenation

Carbon, to some extent, silicon have a tendency for catenation while other elements do not have this property to a great extent.

6. Nature of dioxide

CO2 and SiO2 are acidic while other dioxides (GeO2, SnO2, and PbO2) are amphoteric.

7. Formation of acid

Carbon and Silicon form the acids of the type, HOOC-COOH(oxalic acid), HOOSi-SiOOH (Silicon oxalic acid) while other elements do not give the acids of this type.


Both these elements belong to the same subgroup (group IVA) of the periodic table and have the same number of electrons (=4) in their valence shell. It is for this reason that these elements have many similarities as discussed below:

  1. Electronic configuration. Both the elements have 4 electrons in their valence-shell [C4=2, 4; Si14=2,8,4].
  2. Occurrence. Both are widely distributed in nature. Carbon is an essential constituent of vegetable and animal kingdom, i.e.,of the organic compounds. Silicon is an essential of mineral ingdom, i.e.,of the organic compounds.
  3. Valency. Both are tetravalent. These elements show a covalency of four and form compounds by sharing of electrons.
  4. Allotropy. Both show allotropy,i.e., they exist in more than one form. Thus, carbon occurs in two crystalline forms namely diamond and graphite and a number of amorphous forms such as coal, coke, charcoal etc. Silicon exist in two forms viz., crystalline and amorphous.
  5. Formation of oxides. Both burn in oxygen to form acidic oxides.

CO2 + 2NaOH  Na2CO3 + H2O

SiO2 + 2 NaOH  Na2SiO3 + H2O


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