Fumed Silica

Uses of Fumed Silica in Various Industries


What is Fumed Silica?
Fumed silica, also known as pyrogenic silica, is an ultra-fine, high-purity amorphous (non-crystalline) silica dust or powder produced by hydrolysis of silicon tetrachloride vapor in a flame pyrolysis process. This process involves burning silicon tetrachloride in an oxygen-hydrogen flame producing fumes of silicon dioxide. These fumes are then collected to produce non-aggregated, strongly-agglomerated spherical particles, typically 5–30 nm in diameter. This gives fumed silica a low bulk density and extremely large specific surface area, up to 400 m2/g.

Uses in Thermal Insulation

Due to its low density and pyrogenic production process that leaves a nanoporous structure, fumed silica is widely used as a thermal or heat insulating material. It is mixed into putties, sealants, and coatings used to insulate buildings, pipes, ductwork and industrial equipment. Fumed silica enhances thermal resistance by inhibiting heat transfer through its extensive internal surface area which scatters and reflects infrared radiation. Its high stability at elevated temperatures also makes it suitable for applications requiring heat resistance up to approximately 1200°C. Common areas where fumed silica provides thermal insulation include automotive applications like gaskets, cylinder head and exhaust manifold coatings as well as industrial ovens, furnaces and boilers.

Uses in Rubber Compounding

The unique properties of Fumed Silica have led to its widespread use as a reinforcing filler and thickening agent in rubber compounding. When mixed into raw rubber, the fumed silica particles engage in physical interactions and hydrogen bonding that strengthens the overall rubber matrix. This improves the mechanical properties of vulcanized rubber products, enhancing tear resistance, modulus, hardness and wear resistance. Automotive tires are a leading end-use, with fumed silica critical to formulations requiring optimized traction, rolling resistance and treadwear. Other rubber goods like hoses, belts, seals and gaskets also take advantage of fumed silica’s reinforcing abilities during compounding.

Uses in Personal Care Products

The chemical inertness and purity of fumed silica make it well-suited for use in various personal care products. In toothpastes and other oral care formulations, fumed silica acts as a thickening agent and improves texture and suspension of active ingredients. It is also widely used as a thickener, opacifying agent and binding material in cosmetic creams, lotions and foundations where it helps obtain a smooth, uniform finish. Other popular applications include facial masks, shampoos and sunscreens where fumed silica enhances viscosity without negative biological effects. Its white coloration lends transparent or colored products a pearlescent glow while physically protecting sensitive skin. The amorphous structure presents a non-irritating alternative to other mineral fillers.

Uses in Food Processing

As a food additive approved by the FDA, fumed silica finds several uses in the food industry as an anti-caking agent, flow agent and stabilizer. It enhances pourability and prevents clumping of powdered foods during manufacture, shipping and storage. Common processed foods where fumed silica is used include powdered drink mixes, packaged pasta and soup mixes, seasoning blends, vitamin supplements and confectionery products. Fumed silica’s highly absorptive nature also allows it to act as a carrier for flavors, colors and other nutrients. During food processing, it improves powder flow over mechanical parts like screws and belts. It has also facilitated new food forms like nutrition bars by enabling a smooth, dust-free texture.

Uses in Pharmaceuticals and Medicine

Various properties of fumed silica make it an suitable ingredient in pharmaceutical formulations and medical applications. It acts as an excipient (inactive substance) that enhances flowability, reduces caking and allows proper metering of medication during production processes like tableting. Fumed silica is often used as a glidant or anti-adherent in tablet coatings to ensure smooth flow through production equipment. Other common roles involve use as an adsorbent of liquids, moisture control agent and disintegrant to promote tablet disintegration upon ingestion. Specific therapies where fumed silica excipients are approved include anti-inflammatories, anti-microbials, diabetes and cardiovascular drugs. Growth areas are expected in customized medications targeting specific health conditions.

Uses in Paints and Coatings

Fumed silica has become a very important additive in paints and coatings due to its uniqueness as a reinforcing agent and thickening material. It is often included in water-based architectural paints where it helps maintain a uniform dispersion of pigment particles without settling or floating. This creates a consistent, homogenous finish upon application. In industrial/protective coatings and automotive paints as well, fumed silica improves chip, crack and UV resistance. It acts as a thixotropic agent that suppresses sagging and leveling, allowing the paint to keep its applied thickness. Besides thickening and reinforcing functions, fumed silica protects underlying surfaces from corrosion and abrasion while adding desirable texture, opacity and gloss levels.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it