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An introduction to silicone

Jun 15, 2017

At Silicone Engineering, we are frequently asked many questions regarding silicone and its applications. To give you a basic understanding, we’ve compiled the top five most commonly asked questions to give you all the knowledge you need.

Q: What is silicone?

As they say in those famous shampoo adverts: ‘here is the science bit’. Silicones are polymers, which are large molecules composed of many repeated sub-units. These polymers are made up of siloxane – a chain of alternating silicon atoms and oxygen atoms frequently combined with carbon and/or hydrogen. Silicon is an element found in sand, where it is extracted from and passed through hydrocarbons.

Q: Why is silicone more expensive than other rubbers?

Being made from sand means that silicon is the second most abundant element on Earth, yet despite being readily available the cost is relatively high in comparison to other rubbers such as natural rubbers, Neoprene and EPDM. The reason for this is that the process of converting sand into silicon is expensive. Furthermore, while it is popular, silicone is not used as widely as some other materials so the economies of scale are low. For many businesses, though, the cost of silicone is easily justified as it’s the best in class elastomer for extreme temperature environments where other rubbers simply can’t function. We have examined the reasons for the high cost of silicone in more detail on our blog post ‘Why is silicone classed as premium rubber?’.

Q: Why choose silicone rubber?

Silicone rubber is an elastomer and is non-reactive, stable and resistant to extreme environments and temperatures. Due to these characteristics, silicone is frequently used in Rail, cars, , aircraft , electronics and HVAC systems.

Q: What temperatures can silicone withstand?

What makes silicone so popular for use in so many products and applications is the wide variety of temperatures it can withstand whilst maintaining its properties and physical structure. Silicone is ideal for use in continuous temperatures as low as -60°C to as high as around 230°C. However, the amount of time spent in extreme temperatures beyond these values is important. Silicone cannot withstand the highest or lowest temperatures for too long. We have written more about this in our blog post ‘What temperatures can silicone rubber withstand?’.

Q: What is the shelf life of a silicone product?

The shelf life of your silicone product will be affected by several different factors. For example, placing your silicone product in perfect temperature controlled conditions would give it a long shelf life, generally up to 10 years. However, exposing it to extreme temperatures will degrade the material over time and therefore reducing the shelf life. We have explored this issue in more detail in our blog post: ‘What is the shelf life of a silicone product?’.

What now?

So, now you will have a basic understanding of silicone. These five queries give you a small flavour of some of the frequently asked questions, but our team of experts will be happy to answer any other enquiries you might have and go into detail to help you find the silicone product best for you. You can contact us via the