Silicone rubber is an elastomer that combines silicon, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. It is a material that maintains its properties at very high and low temperatures, making it desirable for use in many applications. Because of this, you see silicone used in your everyday home life in the kitchen as spatulas, and even oven mitts. In the office, Postit® note utilizes silicone-based adhesive systems. This material offers such diversity that it is also used in many industries including automotive, medical, and power distribution, along with many more
Dating back to ancient times, the Romans used silicon-based sand to make glass. In the 1930s, Chemists of Corning Glass and General Electric are credited as having created the first silicone polymers. Recognizing the potential of the polymer, Corning Glass and General Electric spun off a group called Dow Corning in 1943 to continue the development of the material, which we use today.
Silicone is a desirable material because it has good resistance to temperature, weathering, aging, oxidation, moisture, chemicals, and ultra violet. These characteristics lead silicone to be used in outdoor applications such as seals and grommets in a power generating wind turbine or even in the power distribution network as part of the transformer. The material is also generally non-irritating to humans, making it good for human contact as buttons on medical equipment or even as an implant. High flexibility is useful in applications such as industrial mold making where the mold is stretched and then expected to return back to its original shape. Silicone is highly permeable to oxygen, nitrogen and water vapor. This, in addition to being impermeable to water molecules, makes it great for waterproofing jackets and tents. Silicone’s resistance to various fluids and solvents makes it a great material to use in sealing food and beverage equipment.
Silly Putty®, now owned by Crayola LLC, is also made from silicone. Although the history is somewhat debated, the material was originally developed while looking for a synthetic replacement for rubber during WWII. It was unsuccessful in the original application, but was hugely successful in the 1950’s when marketed as a child’s toy.
Silicone products can be found all around us. They touch our lives each and every day, and make it better. Keep your eyes open for it.