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Fascinating Silicone™ Chemistry Corner - The Silicone Molecule

The silicone molecule – quartz with a flexible backbone

You can think of silicones as organically modified quartz where two of the oxygen atoms attached to every silicon atom have been replaced with organic groups. In polydimethylsiloxane (the basic and most commonly available silicone), these organic groups are methyl (CH3).

This substitution transforms the rigid, three-dimensional network structure of quartz into a strong, yet flexible, linear polymer in which the organic groups rotate freely about the Si-O-Si chain.

 

Quartz has a rigid three-dimensional structure.
Quartz
Durable, Hard, Inflexible "Rock"
 Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS)
Flexible, Twistable Polymeric "Noodle"

Trademarks of the silicone (polydimethylsiloxane) molecule

  • A highly open, flexible, and mobile siloxane backbone – the ability to orient toward particular surfaces and bend without breaking
  • High bond strength – stable in many different environments and under harsh conditions
  • The ability to form extremely long polymer chains and still remain fluid
  • The ability to bond with both organic and inorganic materials, creating a bridge between them

These properties enable silicone to be used for everything from fluids and gums to gels, elastomers, and resins, and to meet the challenges of industries ranging from automotive and electronics to beauty and healthcare!

Learn more about the unique physical and chemical properties that enable silicones to be and do so many amazing things.

Did you know ... not all silicone molecules are linear! They can also be cyclic, crosslinked, or resinous. Explore the range of silicone polymer structures.

 
Did you know ... silicone, silica, and silanes have similar names, but their structures, properties, and applications are different! Learn more about these important branches of the silicon materials family tree.

Expand your understanding

Learn more about:
Silicone polymer structures
Silicone building blocks & nomenclature
Other members of the silicon materials family

Explore your material options

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