Silicone might be the most broadly used polymer today. You will need Silicone to produce various greases, machine oils, caulks, elastomers, and numerous other materials used in different industries.
Since it was first discovered and described by the English chemist Frederic Stanley Kipping in 1927, Silicone has been widely known and used for its outstanding electric and water insulating properties. It is an excellent lubricant, a protective and laminating material, etc.
Despite a common confusion, Silicone and Silicon are not the same things! Silicon is a chemical element that you will find in the Periodic Table marked as “Si.” At the same time, Silicone is not just one particular substance or material but a whole variety of polymers that may have different characteristics and use based on the organic components and other elements attached.
People are also often surprised that the main ingredient of Silicone production is technically sand. A special type of sand, to be precise, called Silica.
In this article, we shall go over the Silicone production and various forms and uses of this popular polymer.
From Sand Powder to Silicone
They start manufacturing Silicon by extracting the Silica element from the quartz sand. The sand has to be heated up to 1800 C (3272 F) to activate the process.
When the pure Silicon element is extracted from the sand, they need to let it cool down and then grind the material into a fine powder.
When the powder is ready, it is mixed with Methyl Chloride and heated again to start a chemical reaction between the two materials. The result of this chemical reaction is called Methyl Chlorosilane, which is the main component of Silicone.
In fact, Methyl Chlorosilane is a mix of several components that now have to go through a thorough distillation process to separate from each other. This process is pretty complicated as each of these components actually has different boiling points. It means that the Methyl Chlorosilane has to be heated gradually to a whole series of precise temperatures to provide careful distillation and receive the necessary substance that can be turned into the polymer.
After the destination process is finished, they add water to allocate Hydrochloric Acid from the substance. This acid is a catalyst of a chemical reaction that leads to the condensation of Polydimethylsiloxane, the core component of Silicone.
To get Silicone, you need to polymerize Polydimethylsiloxane. It is done through various procedures which create polymers with different molecular weights and the degree to which the polymer chains are interlinked. As a result, you get substances of different densities and physical qualities, from fluids to raisins and elastomers.
Variety and Use of Silicone
Silicones with low molecular weight act as excellent hydraulic fluids and lubricants. The very same substance is widely used in textile and paper manufacture to create waterproof materials.
High-molecular-weight silicones are often mixed with elastomers and various fillers that add bulk, color, and other properties to the material. These are the silicone gums that have outstanding electric-insulating properties and an ability to withstand extreme temperatures remaining stable under different physical conditions.
Such silicones have an extremely wide range of use, from caulks, gaskets, and seals to implants used in plastic surgeries.
Another benefit of Silicones, which made them such popular and widespread materials, is the fact that their manufacture is pretty straightforward and therefore inexpensive.
All these properties lead to the abundance of Silicone materials on the market that allows for the creation and enhances various products with advanced physical features. That is why today you need Silicone in every existing industry on the market, from machinery and construction to fashion and toy manufacture.