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Fascinating Silicone™ Chemistry – How Silicones Are Polymerized & Finished

How silicones are polymerized & finished

This is the “design center” of silicone manufacturing. It is where silicone scientists engineer an infinite array of problem-solving and innovation-enabling silicone materials.

 

Did you know ... organic modification of the silicone molecule enables the production of silicones that behave in seemingly “unsilicone” ways! Learn about organically modified silicones.

 

 
Silicone polymerization

Polymerization is the process of linking smaller molecular building blocks to create true silicone polymers – molecules with many repeating units.

Silicone polymers can be made reactive or non-reactive. They can also be given an array of organic or inorganic functionalities.

A process called “end blocking” is used to control chain length, molecular weight, and viscosity.

Chemical formula illustrating the end blocking process

Because the end-blocker is non-reactive, it prevents further polymerization from occurring. Most silicone polymer chain ends are terminated with Me3SiO2.

Polymerization processes produce linear and branched fluids, resins, gum, gels.

Silicone polymers can be combined with other ingredients, like fillers, crosslinkers, catalysts, and pigments to make a wide variety of non-curing (fluids, greases, compounds) and curing (elastomers, resins, gels) materials.

Silicone finishing

Finishing is the process of delivering silicone performance in easy-to-use forms that meet specific manufacturing process, application, or performance requirements.

Silicone finishing processes

  • Emulsification – creating stable silicone fluid and water blends; emulsifying simplifies the formulation process and reduces volatile organic compound (VOC) content.
  • Solvent dispersion – dispersing or diluting silicone polymers or resins in various solvents; the solvent is used to control evaporation rate and achieve compatibility with other formulation ingredients.
  • Compounding – incorporating fillers (such as silica) and/or additives (such as plasticizers or fire retardants); compounding overcomes dispersion difficulties and helps control flow rate and film thickness; fillers can also provide reinforcement and extend performance time.
  • Blending – mixing different forms or viscosities of silicones together or mixing them with other materials; blending creates materials with unique properties and performance characteristics.

Finishing processes produce formulated products, blends, compounds, solutions, emulsions

The result – the world’s most adaptable and versatile materials!

Through polymerization and finishing, silicone producers create materials that:

  • Are capable of reacting with other materials
  • Are compatible with specific processes and substrates
  • Give formulators and manufacturers a virtually unlimited range of material forms and performance capabilities

Investigate the types and uses, structure and properties of different forms of silicone.


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