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Stereo structural formula of silane Silane-2D.svg
Stereo structural formula of silane
Spacefill model of silane Silane-3D-vdW.png
Spacefill model of silane
IUPAC name
Other names
  • Monosilane
  • Silicane
  • Silicon 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
AppearanceColourless 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)
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 is an inorganic compound with chemical formula, SiH4. It is a colourless, pyrophoric, toxic gas with a sharp, repulsive 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.



Commercial-scale routes

Silane can be produced by several routes. [6] 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 aluminum 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: [7]

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. [8]

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. [9] 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. [10]


Silane is the silicon analogue of methane. 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. [11] 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. [12] [13] 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. [14] [15]


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. [13] 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. [16] [17]

Safety and precautions

A number of fatal industrial accidents produced by combustion and detonation of leaked silane in air have been reported. [18] [19] [20]

Due to weak bonds and hydrogen silane is a pyrophoric gas (capable of autoignition at temperatures below 54 °C or 129 °F). [21]


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. [22]

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. [23]

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. [24]

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. [25]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Silicon</span> Chemical element, symbol Si and atomic number 14

Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and atomic number 14. It is a hard, brittle crystalline solid with a blue-grey metallic luster, and is a tetravalent metalloid and semiconductor. It is a member of group 14 in the periodic table: carbon is above it; and germanium, tin, lead, and flerovium are below it. It is relatively unreactive.

<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, most commonly found in nature as quartz and in various living organisms. In many parts of the world, silica is the major constituent of sand. Silica is one of the most complex and most abundant families of materials, existing as a compound of several minerals and as a synthetic product. Notable examples include fused quartz, fumed silica, silica gel, opal and aerogels. It is used in structural materials, microelectronics, and as components in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

In chemistry, a hydride is formally the anion of hydrogen( H). The term is applied loosely. At one extreme, all compounds containing covalently bound H atoms are called hydrides: water (H2O) is a hydride of oxygen, ammonia is a hydride of nitrogen, etc. For inorganic chemists, hydrides refer to compounds and ions in which hydrogen is covalently attached to a less electronegative element. In such cases, the H centre has nucleophilic character, which contrasts with the protic character of acids. The hydride anion is very rarely observed.

In chemistry, an amphoteric compound is a molecule or ion that can react both as an acid and as a base. What exactly this can mean depends on which definitions of acids and bases are being used.

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

The Brønsted–Lowry theory (also called proton theory of acids and bases) is an acid–base reaction theory which was proposed independently by Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted and Thomas Martin Lowry in 1923. The fundamental concept of this theory is that when an acid and a base react with each other, the acid forms its conjugate base, and the base forms its conjugate acid by exchange of a proton (the hydrogen cation, or H+). This theory is a generalization of the Arrhenius theory.

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 grams per litre (0.00047 lb/cu in) (roughly 11 times heavier than air). It is one of the densest known gases under standard conditions. WF6 ls 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 a chemical reaction in which one element is replaced by another in a compound.

<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.

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

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chloroplatinic acid</span> Chemical compound

Chloroplatinic acid (also known as hexachloroplatinic acid) is an inorganic compound with the formula [H3O]2[PtCl6](H2O)x (0 ≤ x ≤ 6). A red solid, it is an important commercial source of platinum, usually as an aqueous solution. Although often written in shorthand as H2PtCl6, it is the hydronium (H3O+) salt of the hexachloroplatinate anion (PtCl2−
). Hexachloroplatinic acid is highly hygroscopic.

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

Organosilicon compounds are organometallic compounds containing carbon–silicon bonds. Organosilicon chemistry is the corresponding science of their preparation and properties. Most organosilicon compounds are similar to the ordinary organic compounds, being colourless, flammable, hydrophobic, and stable to air. Silicon carbide is an inorganic compound.

Disilane is a chemical compound with chemical formula Si2H6 that was identified in 1902 by Henri Moissan and Samuel Smiles (1877–1953). Moissan and Smiles reported disilane as being among the products formed by the action of dilute acids on metal silicides. Although these reactions had been previously investigated by Friedrich Woehler and Heinrich Buff between 1857 and 1858, Moissan and Smiles were the first to explicitly identify disilane. They referred to disilane as silicoethane. Higher members of the homologous series SinH2n+2 formed in these reactions were subsequently identified by Carl Somiesky (sometimes spelled "Karl Somieski") and Alfred Stock.

<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, SiH
, the analogue of methane, continuing with disilane Si
, 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.

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.

Silanes refers to diverse kinds of charge-neutral silicon compounds with the formula SiR
. The R substituents can any combination of organic or inorganic groups. Most silanes contain Si-C bonds, and are discussed under organosilicon compounds.


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Cited sources