The basic material in the chemical makeup of silicones is quartz, i.e., silica or silicon dioxide. The name “silicon” comes from the Latin silex, silicis, meaning stone. Silicon exists in nature only in combined forms (mixtures of silica with a metal oxide). This silicon is made to react in chemical reactors before being hydrolysed to silicone.
By varying the manufacturing process, we can get a wide variety of different materials from silicones. Their consistency ranges from fluid (oil, surgical implants) to hard plastic, gel and gum. Silicone is present everywhere, as sealants, glue, joints, cosmetic additives, medical equipment, electrical cable insulation, moulds and kitchen utensils, and more. For centuries, humanity has used building materials and other materials that contain silicon, such as sand, clay and ceramics. One of the oldest uses of silica was in the manufacture of glass.
Generally, we agree to group all these products into three broad families: fluids, resins and elastomers.
The biggest advantage of silicone is its considerable strength. Silicone rubber has the ability to withstand acids, bases, solvents, chemicals, oils and water. As well as being resistant, it is extremely easy to mould and maintain.
Silicone is stable and versatile, as it contains easy to mix compounds. It stays strong for a long period of time, making it a reliable material with a good cost-to-use ratio. It also is not at risk from flammable or toxic solvents.
Newly moulded silicone rubbers harden or dry at room temperature, without the need for an oven. The properties of this material can remain unchanged under extreme temperatures (significant thermal stability).
Although it does last a long time, silicone is not an eternal material, contrary to popular belief. Silicones absorb oils and degrade slowly due to chemical hydrolysis or solar UV rays. The environmental effects are still not well known, but we know that, ultimately, silicones do contribute to CO2 emissions and the creation of siloxanes that can inhibit the natural degradation of organic waste. Don’t forget: silicone is not biodegradable.
To date, there is no recycling obligation, extended producer responsibility (EPR), or even a silicone recycling sector.
We can make your next silicone items, but we can also offer you in particular new recycled or non-fossil-derived materials to help you reduce your environmental footprint. Feel free to contact us to discuss your future project.