silica, also called silicon dioxide, compound of the two most abundant elements in Earth’s crust, silicon and oxygen, SiO2. The mass of Earth’s crust is 59 percent silica, the main constituent of more than 95 percent of the known rocks. Silica has three main crystalline varieties: quartz (by far the most abundant), tridymite, and cristobalite. Other varieties include coesite, keatite, and lechatelierite. Silica sand is used in buildings and roads in the form of portland cement, concrete, and mortar, as well as sandstone. Silica also is used in grinding and polishing glass and stone; in foundry molds; in the manufacture of glass, ceramics, silicon carbide, ferrosilicon, and silicones; as a refractory material; and as gemstones. Silica gel is often used as a desiccant to remove moisture.