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Silicone: A versatile polymer for industrial applications



Vinay Pandey says silicones, due to their unique molecular structure, are used in a broad range of products, including electrical insulation, consumer electronics, home appliances, automobiles, aerospace, medicine, clothing, and much more.

At present engineers have many choices available for selection of synthetic polymers. Each polymer has its own special characteristics and limitations. Silicone is attracting designers due to its versatile combinations of properties. Let’s look at the characteristics of silicone applicable to numerous industries.

Characteristics of silicone

Silicone exhibits many useful characteristics as a result of which it is used in a wide variety of applications.

High temperature resistance: Silicones have Si-O backbone structure, which enables it to withstand continuously high temperature up to 230°C. Specially formulated grades can withstand temperatures up to 300°C and hence, it is used in the making of engineering components which find applications in aerospace, automobile (radiator hose) and sealants/adhesive industries.

Low temperature resistance: Silicones can withstand -80°C temperature and maintain its flexibility in low temperatures. Hence, it is used in freezing equipment device door seal and coolant hose in engine.

Low compression set: Silicone products have low compression set properties which enables them preferred choice for many engineering applications. Compression set is measure of polymer’s ability to regain its shape back after constant load or deflection. Lower the compression set, higher ability to regain original shape. Because of this characteristic, flame resistant silicone gaskets are used in railways.

Excellent environmental resistance: Oxygen, ozone and sunlight (UV light) is enemy of polymer. It breaks backbone structure of unsaturated polymers. Silicones have saturated backbone, which results excellent oxygen, ozone and UV light resistance to facilitate outdoor applications such as silicone gaskets in wind turbine & construction industry and silicone sheets in solar panels. Electrical properties: Silicones have higher electrical dielectric strength value. It can hold static electricity charge on its surface to facilitate corona treatment applications.

Apart from above mentioned applications silicone is popular in other industries. For example, sectors such as food, pharmaceuticals, bio-pharma and medical widely use silicone due to its excellent biocompatibility and inert properties. Silicone is also used in textiles, leather, personal care products, paints & coating applications.

It is challenging and interesting matter for polymer specialists to modify silicone’s physico-chemical properties. Worldwide market share of silicone for industrial application seems unstoppable with exponential increment.

The days are not far away when silicones will be everywhere.

Vinay Pandey is the Assistant Manager Technical of Ami Polymer Pvt Ltd. For details, you can contact him on tech@amipolymer.com



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