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Ball-and-stick model of silane Silane-3D-balls.png
Ball-and-stick model of silane
Spacefill model of silane Silane-3D-vdW.png
Spacefill model of silane
IUPAC name
Systematic IUPAC name
Other names
  • Monosilane
  • Silicon(IV) hydride
  • Silicon tetrahydride
3D model (JSmol)
ECHA InfoCard 100.029.331 OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
PubChem CID
RTECS number
  • VV1400000
UN number 2203
  • InChI=1S/SiH4/h1H4 Yes check.svgY
  • InChI=1/SiH4/h1H4
  • [SiH4]
Molar mass 32.117 g·mol−1
AppearanceColorless gas
Odor Repulsive [1]
Density 1.313 g/L [2]
Melting point −185 °C (−301.0 °F; 88.1 K) [2]
Boiling point −111.9 °C (−169.4 °F; 161.2 K) [2]
Reacts slowly [2]
Vapor pressure >1 atm (20 °C) [1]
Conjugate acid Silanium (sometimes spelled silonium)
r(Si-H) = 1.4798 Å [3]
0  D
Thermochemistry [4]
42.81 J/mol·K
Std molar
204.61 J/mol·K
34.31 kJ/mol
56.91 kJ/mol
Occupational safety and health (OHS/OSH):
Main hazards
Extremely flammable, pyrophoric in air
GHS labelling:
GHS-pictogram-flamme.svg GHS-pictogram-bottle.svg
H220, H280
P210, P222, P230, P280, P377, P381, P403, P410+P403
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
NFPA 704.svgHealth 2: Intense or continued but not chronic exposure could cause temporary incapacitation or possible residual injury. E.g. chloroformFlammability 4: Will rapidly or completely vaporize at normal atmospheric pressure and temperature, or is readily dispersed in air and will burn readily. Flash point below 23 °C (73 °F). E.g. propaneInstability 3: Capable of detonation or explosive decomposition but requires a strong initiating source, must be heated under confinement before initiation, reacts explosively with water, or will detonate if severely shocked. E.g. hydrogen peroxideSpecial hazards (white): no code
Flash point Not applicable, pyrophoric gas
~18 °C (64 °F; 291 K)
Explosive limits 1.37–100%
NIOSH (US health exposure limits):
PEL (Permissible)
None [1]
REL (Recommended)
TWA 5 ppm (7 mg/m3) [1]
IDLH (Immediate danger)
N.D. [1]
Safety data sheet (SDS) ICSC 0564
Related compounds
Related tetrahydride compounds
Related compounds
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
Yes check.svgY  verify  (what is  Yes check.svgYX mark.svgN ?)

Silane (Silicane) is an inorganic compound with chemical formula SiH4. It is a colorless, pyrophoric, toxic gas with a sharp, repulsive, pungent smell, somewhat similar to that of acetic acid. [5] Silane is of practical interest as a precursor to elemental silicon. Silane with alkyl groups are effective water repellents for mineral surfaces such as concrete and masonry. Silanes with both organic and inorganic attachments are used as coupling agents. They are commonly used to apply coatings to surfaces or as an adhesion promoter. [6]



Commercial-scale routes

Silane can be produced by several routes. [7] Typically, it arises from the reaction of hydrogen chloride with magnesium silicide:

It is also prepared from metallurgical-grade silicon in a two-step process. First, silicon is treated with hydrogen chloride at about 300 °C to produce trichlorosilane, HSiCl3, along with hydrogen gas, according to the chemical equation

The trichlorosilane is then converted to a mixture of silane and silicon tetrachloride:

This redistribution reaction requires a catalyst.

The most commonly used catalysts for this process are metal halides, particularly aluminium chloride. This is referred to as a redistribution reaction, which is a double displacement involving the same central element. It may also be thought of as a disproportionation reaction, even though there is no change in the oxidation number for silicon (Si has a nominal oxidation number IV in all three species). However, the utility of the oxidation number concept for a covalent molecule[ vague ], even a polar covalent molecule, is ambiguous.[ citation needed ] The silicon atom could be rationalized as having the highest formal oxidation state and partial positive charge in SiCl4 and the lowest formal oxidation state in SiH4, since Cl is far more electronegative than is H.[ citation needed ]

An alternative industrial process for the preparation of very high-purity silane, suitable for use in the production of semiconductor-grade silicon, starts with metallurgical-grade silicon, hydrogen, and silicon tetrachloride and involves a complex series of redistribution reactions (producing byproducts that are recycled in the process) and distillations. The reactions are summarized below:

The silane produced by this route can be thermally decomposed to produce high-purity silicon and hydrogen in a single pass.

Still other industrial routes to silane involve reduction of silicon tetrafluoride (SiF4) with sodium hydride (NaH) or reduction of SiCl4 with lithium aluminium hydride (LiAlH4).

Another commercial production of silane involves reduction of silicon dioxide (SiO2) under Al and H2 gas in a mixture of NaCl and aluminum chloride (AlCl3) at high pressures: [8]

Laboratory-scale routes

In 1857, the German chemists Heinrich Buff and Friedrich Woehler discovered silane among the products formed by the action of hydrochloric acid on aluminum silicide, which they had previously prepared. They called the compound siliciuretted hydrogen. [9]

For classroom demonstrations, silane can be produced by heating sand with magnesium powder to produce magnesium silicide (Mg2Si), then pouring the mixture into hydrochloric acid. The magnesium silicide reacts with the acid to produce silane gas, which burns on contact with air and produces tiny explosions. [10] This may be classified as a heterogeneous [ clarification needed ] acid–base chemical reaction, since the isolated Si4− ion in the Mg2Si antifluorite structure can serve as a Brønsted–Lowry base capable of accepting four protons. It can be written as

In general, the alkaline-earth metals form silicides with the following stoichiometries: MII2Si, MIISi, and MIISi2. In all cases, these substances react with Brønsted–Lowry acids to produce some type of hydride of silicon that is dependent on the Si anion connectivity in the silicide. The possible products include SiH4 and/or higher molecules in the homologous series SinH2n+2, a polymeric silicon hydride, or a silicic acid. Hence, MIISi with their zigzag chains of Si2− anions (containing two lone pairs of electrons on each Si anion that can accept protons) yield the polymeric hydride (SiH2)x.

Yet another small-scale route for the production of silane is from the action of sodium amalgam on dichlorosilane, SiH2Cl2, to yield monosilane along with some yellow polymerized silicon hydride (SiH)x. [11]


Silane is the silicon analogue of methane. All four Si−H bonds are equal and their length is 147.98 pm. [12] Because of the greater electronegativity of hydrogen in comparison to silicon, this Si–H bond polarity is the opposite of that in the C–H bonds of methane. One consequence of this reversed polarity is the greater tendency of silane to form complexes with transition metals. A second consequence is that silane is pyrophoric  — it undergoes spontaneous combustion in air, without the need for external ignition. [13] However, the difficulties in explaining the available (often contradictory) combustion data are ascribed to the fact that silane itself is stable and that the natural formation of larger silanes during production, as well as the sensitivity of combustion to impurities such as moisture and to the catalytic effects of container surfaces causes its pyrophoricity. [14] [15] Above 420 °C, silane decomposes into silicon and hydrogen; it can therefore be used in the chemical vapor deposition of silicon.

The Si–H bond strength is around 384 kJ/mol, which is about 20% weaker than the H–H bond in H2. Consequently, compounds containing Si–H bonds are much more reactive than is H2. The strength of the Si–H bond is modestly affected by other substituents: the Si–H bond strengths are: SiHF3 419 kJ/mol, SiHCl3 382 kJ/mol, and SiHMe3 398 kJ/mol. [16] [17]


Monosilane gas shipping containers in Japan. Container [( 28T9 )]  SINU 212002(1)---No,1 [( Pictures taken in Japan )] .jpg
Monosilane gas shipping containers in Japan.

While diverse applications exist for organosilanes, silane itself has one dominant application, as a precursor to elemental silicon, particularly in the semiconductor industry. The higher silanes, such as di- and trisilane, are only of academic interest. About 300 metric tons per year of silane were consumed in the late 1990s. [ needs update ] [15] Low-cost solar photovoltaic module manufacturing has led to substantial consumption of silane for depositing (PECVD) hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) on glass and other substrates like metal and plastic. The PECVD process is relatively inefficient at materials utilization with approximately 85% of the silane being wasted. To reduce that waste and the ecological footprint of a-Si:H-based solar cells further several recycling efforts have been developed. [18] [19]

Safety and precautions

A number of fatal industrial accidents produced by combustion and detonation of leaked silane in air have been reported. [20] [21] [22]

Due to weak bonds and hydrogen, silane is a pyrophoric gas (capable of autoignition at temperatures below 54 °C or 129 °F). [23]


For lean mixtures a two-stage reaction process has been proposed, which consists of a silane consumption process and a hydrogen oxidation process. The heat of SiO2(s) condensation increases the burning velocity due to thermal feedback. [24]

Diluted silane mixtures with inert gases such as nitrogen or argon are even more likely to ignite when leaked into open air, compared to pure silane: even a 1% mixture of silane in pure nitrogen easily ignites when exposed to air. [25]

In Japan, in order to reduce the danger of silane for amorphous silicon solar cell manufacturing, several companies began to dilute silane with hydrogen gas. This resulted in a symbiotic benefit of making more stable solar photovoltaic cells as it reduced the Staebler–Wronski effect [ citation needed ].

Unlike methane, silane is fairly toxic: the lethal concentration in air for rats (LC50) is 0.96% (9,600 ppm) over a 4-hour exposure. In addition, contact with eyes may form silicic acid with resultant irritation. [26]

In regards to occupational exposure of silane to workers, the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has set a recommended exposure limit of 5 ppm (7 mg/m3) over an eight-hour time-weighted average. [27]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chemical vapor deposition</span> Method used to apply surface coatings

Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) is a vacuum deposition method used to produce high-quality, and high-performance, solid materials. The process is often used in the semiconductor industry to produce thin films.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silicon dioxide</span> Oxide of silicon

Silicon dioxide, also known as silica, is an oxide of silicon with the chemical formula SiO2, commonly found in nature as quartz. In many parts of the world, silica is the major constituent of sand. Silica is abundant as it comprises several minerals and synthetic products. All forms are white or colorless, although impure samples can be colored.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silanol</span> Si–OH functional group in silicon chemistry

A silanol is a functional group in silicon chemistry with the connectivity Si–O–H. It is related to the hydroxy functional group (C–O–H) found in all alcohols. Silanols are often invoked as intermediates in organosilicon chemistry and silicate mineralogy. If a silanol contains one or more organic residues, it is an organosilanol.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silicon tetrachloride</span> Chemical compound

Silicon tetrachloride or tetrachlorosilane is the inorganic compound with the formula SiCl4. It is a colorless volatile liquid that fumes in air. It is used to produce high purity silicon and silica for commercial applications. It is a part of the chlorosilane family.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tungsten hexafluoride</span> Chemical compound

Tungsten(VI) fluoride, also known as tungsten hexafluoride, is an inorganic compound with the formula WF6. It is a toxic, corrosive, colorless gas, with a density of about 13 kg/m3 (22 lb/cu yd). It is the only known gaseous transition metal compound and the densest known gas under standard ambient temperature and pressure. WF6 is commonly used by the semiconductor industry to form tungsten films, through the process of chemical vapor deposition. This layer is used in a low-resistivity metallic "interconnect". It is one of seventeen known binary hexafluorides.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Single displacement reaction</span> Type of chemical reaction

A single-displacement reaction, also known as single replacement reaction or exchange reaction, is an archaic concept in chemistry. It describes the stoichiometry of some chemical reactions in which one element or ligand is replaced by atom or group.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Magnesium silicide</span> Chemical compound

Magnesium silicide, Mg2Si, is an inorganic compound consisting of magnesium and silicon. As-grown Mg2Si usually forms black crystals; they are semiconductors with n-type conductivity and have potential applications in thermoelectric generators.

In inorganic chemistry, chlorosilanes are a group of reactive, chlorine-containing chemical compounds, related to silane and used in many chemical processes. Each such chemical has at least one silicon-chlorine bond. Trichlorosilane is produced on the largest scale. The parent chlorosilane is silicon tetrachloride.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silicide</span> Chemical compound that combines silicon and a more electropositive element

A silicide is a type of chemical compound that combines silicon and a usually more electropositive element.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lithium hydride</span> Chemical compound

Lithium hydride is an inorganic compound with the formula LiH. This alkali metal hydride is a colorless solid, although commercial samples are grey. Characteristic of a salt-like (ionic) hydride, it has a high melting point, and it is not soluble but reactive with all protic organic solvents. It is soluble and nonreactive with certain molten salts such as lithium fluoride, lithium borohydride, and sodium hydride. With a molar mass of 7.95 g/mol, it is the lightest ionic compound.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Organosilicon chemistry</span> Organometallic compound containing carbon–silicon bonds

Organosilicon chemistry is the study of organometallic compounds containing carbon–silicon bonds, to which they are called organosilicon compounds. Most organosilicon compounds are similar to the ordinary organic compounds, being colourless, flammable, hydrophobic, and stable to air. Silicon carbide is an inorganic compound.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Binary silicon-hydrogen compounds</span>

Silanes are saturated chemical compounds with the empirical formula SixHy. They are hydrosilanes, a class of compounds that includes compounds with Si−H and other Si−X bonds. All contain tetrahedral silicon and terminal hydrides. They only have Si−H and Si−Si single bonds. The bond lengths are 146.0 pm for a Si−H bond and 233 pm for a Si−Si bond. The structures of the silanes are analogues of the alkanes, starting with silane, SiH4, the analogue of methane, continuing with disilane Si2H6, the analogue of ethane, etc. They are mainly of theoretical or academic interest.

Titanium disilicide (TiSi2) is an inorganic chemical compound of titanium and silicon.

Silicon compounds are compounds containing the element silicon (Si). As a carbon group element, silicon often forms compounds in the +4 oxidation state, though many unusual compounds have been discovered that differ from expectations based on its valence electrons, including the silicides and some silanes. Metal silicides, silicon halides, and similar inorganic compounds can be prepared by directly reacting elemental silicon or silicon dioxide with stable metals or with halogens. Silanes, compounds of silicon and hydrogen, are often used as strong reducing agents, and can be prepared from aluminum–silicon alloys and hydrochloric acid.

Hydrosilanes are tetravalent silicon compounds containing one or more Si-H bond. The parent hydrosilane is silane (SiH4). Commonly, hydrosilane refers to organosilicon derivatives. Examples include phenylsilane (PhSiH3) and triethoxysilane ((C2H5O)3SiH). Polymers and oligomers terminated with hydrosilanes are resins that are used to make useful materials like caulks.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silicon tetrabromide</span> Chemical compound

Silicon tetrabromide, also known as tetrabromosilane, is the inorganic compound with the formula SiBr4. This colorless liquid has a suffocating odor due to its tendency to hydrolyze with release of hydrogen bromide. The general properties of silicon tetrabromide closely resemble those of the more commonly used silicon tetrachloride.

Polysilicon hydrides are polymers containing only silicon and hydrogen. They have the formula where 0.2 ≤ n ≤ 2.5 and x is the number of monomer units. The polysilicon hydrides are generally colorless or pale-yellow/ocher powders that are easily hydrolyzed and ignite readily in air. The surfaces of silicon prepared by MOCVD using silane (SiH4) consist of a polysilicon hydride.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Organosilanols</span> Organic compounds of the form R3–Si–OH

In organosilicon chemistry, organosilanols are a group of chemical compounds derived from silicon. More specifically, they are carbosilanes derived with a hydroxy group on the silicon atom. Organosilanols are the silicon analogs to alcohols. Silanols are more acidic and more basic than their alcohol counterparts and therefore show a rich structural chemistry characterized by hydrogen bonding networks which are particularly well studied for silanetriols.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chlorine-free germanium processing</span> Germanium production methods

Chlorine-free germanium processing are methods of germanium activation to form useful germanium precursors in a more energy efficient and environmentally friendly way compared to traditional synthetic routes. Germanium tetrachloride is a valuable intermediate for the synthesis of many germanium complexes. Normal synthesis of it involves an energy-intensive dehydration of germanium oxide, , with hydrogen chloride, Due to the environmental and safety impact of non-recyclable, high energy reactions with , an alternative synthesis of a shelf-stable germanium intermediate precursor without chlorine is of interest. In 2017, a synthesis of organogermanes, without using chloride species was reported, allowing for a much more environmentally friendly and low energy synthesis using , , and even selectively activating germanium in the presence of zinc oxide, resulting in products that are bench stable and solid.


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