Silicone elastomers are an important class of materials used in a wide variety of applications across industries. Their unique combination of properties such as flexibility, temperature resistance and biocompatibility make them suitable for many technological and medical uses. In this article, we will examine the properties and uses of silicone elastomers and how they are enabling new innovations.
What are Silicone Elastomers?
Silicone elastomers belong to a family of polymeric materials called silicones. They are made by polymerizing siloxane monomers into long chains that give the material flexible and elastic properties. The repeating unit in the polymer backbone is -Si-O-Si- which provides strength and temperature stability. Secondary forces between these chains allow the material to stretch and return to its original shape, making it an elastomer.
Compared to other elastomers like natural rubber, silicone elastomers have superior resistance to heat, cold, weathering and oxidation. They maintain their flexibility between -55°C to 200°C. Their low surface energy also makes them resistant to moisture, UV radiation, chemicals and bacteria. These unique properties have made silicone elastomers indispensable in many applications.
Automotive and Transportation Industry
Silicone Elastomers are extensively used in vehicles for seals, hoses, tubing, gaskets and thermally conductive interfaces. Their flexibility and tolerance to wide range of temperatures makes them an ideal material for components exposed to harsh engine conditions. Advantages over competitors include longer lifetimes, tighter seals and reduced replacement costs.
Other transportation uses include seals and packings in aircraft and spacecraft engines subjected to extreme environments. Silicone elastomers in tracks and wheels of construction equipment provide reliability under rough outdoor conditions. Their insulating seals help ensure safety and performance in hybrid and electric vehicles.
Medical and Healthcare Applications
Biocompatibility of silicone elastomers enables their use for implants, prosthetics, medical devices and consumer products. They are commonly used for chest drain tubes, breathing tubes, wound dressings, breast implants and artificial joints & hearts. Their flexibility and skin-like texture makes them suitable for prosthetics.
Silicone-based sealants are ideal for healthcare facility construction due to resistance to harsh disinfectants. Silicone tubing transfers liquids in dialysis machines, MRI and CT scanners safely. Other uses include components in blood pressure monitors, ventilators and implantable drug delivery systems. Their stability and purity help comply with stringent regulations of medical industry.
Electronics and Electrical Industries
In semiconductor fabrication, silicone elastomers are used for wafer transport and storage, die attach and encapsulation needs. Their thermal conductivity properties make them suitable for heat sinks, thermal pads and insulating substrates applications. Silicone-based adhesives and encapsulants protect circuits from moisture, chemicals and mechanical stresses.
Other electrical uses include high voltage insulators, bushings and cable terminators requiring long-term stability. Fiber optic cables employ silicone gels, coatings and seals to shield delicate glass fibers. Their resistance to heat, oxidation and outdoor weathering make them suitable for outdoor switchgears and transformers. Emerging areas adopting silicone elastomers include renewable energy, 3D printing, sensors and robotics.
Consumer Products and Industrial Applications
Silicone elastomers are common ingredients in personal care products due to their skin safety, slip and softness. They are used in cosmetics, shampoos, conditioners, lotions and bath products. In kitchenware and bakeware, they provide non-stick surfaces, heat resistance and durability. Appliance seals, tubing and gaskets harness their thermal stability and longevity.
Industrial applications capitalize on their resistance to chemicals, solvents, acids and bases. They safely handle corrosive fluids in chemical processing as hoses, gaskets and linings. Other sectors adopting silicone elastomers include food processing as seals and coatings. Their weatherability makes them choice materials for construction sealants, gaskets and roof coatings as well. Emerging sectors driving silicone elastomers demand include 3D printing and renewable energy technologies.
Silicone elastomers are truly remarkable materials that continue to transform technologies through their unique properties and versatile performance. Whether in automotive, healthcare, consumer or industrial products – they have emerged as the material of choice for applications requiring resilience to heat, cold and chemicals. Continued innovations are further expanding their usage horizons. As sophisticated modern technologies keep advancing capabilities, silicone elastomers’ role is poised only to grow more significant.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it