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Fascinating Silicone™ Chemistry Corner – Interface Science

Silicones at the interface

You are surrounded by interfaces and interfacial phenomena every day – when you shampoo your hair, shake up your salad dressing, wash your clothes, paint the trim on your house, wear contact lenses, put on a bandage, or apply a postage stamp.

All these familiar objects have interfaces that are designed and controlled through interfacial science and technology.

Optimizing material boundaries

Example of a liquid-solid interface and a liquid-gas interface.

An interface is the boundary between two non-miscible (non-mixable) materials. There are five kinds of interfaces, and silicones have demonstrated their usefulness in all of them:

  • Liquid/gas
  • Liquid/liquid
  • Liquid/solid
  • Solid/solid
  • Solid/gas

Surface and interface applications for silicones

Because of their dual, organic-inorganic nature, polarity, and other unique physical and chemical properties, silicones and silanes can influence the way interfaces behave. Their influence can be stabilizing or destabilizing, depending on the application.

  • Some silicones are applied directly to the surface or interface in the form of sealants, films, or coatings.
  • Others work as integral additives that diffuse or travel to the interface when needed.

Here is a tiny sample of the thousands of surface applications for silicones and silanes.

Follow the links to read related application and success stories.

Interface TypeSilicone or Silane Application


  • Evaporation retardant
  • Defoaming agent
  • Polyurethane foam stabilizer
  • Foam stabilizer for shaving cream
  • Foam preventative for instant iced tea mix
  • Antifoam/defoaming agent for antiflatulent/antacid formulations


Silicone emulsion
  • Emulsion polymer coalescence aid
  • Silicone fluid emulsifier
  • Crude-oil demulsifier
  • Compatibilizer for topical creams, ointments and lotions


Silicone bakeware


Silicone structural glazing sealant


A sweater

Silicone emulsifiers – a case in point

A silicone surfactant has a hydrophobic “tail” and a hydrophilic “head.”

An emulsion is a stable mixture of two incompatible materials, like oil and water, or water and air. Silicone surfactants – organically modified silicone polymers with a hydrophilic (water-loving) "head" and a hydrophobic (water-fearing) "tail" – are able to engulf and stabilize droplets of one material within the other. Learn more about how silicone surfactants work.

Did you know ... some silicones lack durability on certain substrates. But if the proper organofunctional group is attached, the silicone will develop a durable association with the substrate – cling or chemically bond to it! Learn more about organically modified silicones.

Expand your understanding

Learn about:
Silicone vs. organics
Typical performance properties
Commercial benefits
Silicone rheology
Organically modified silicones
How silicones work
Silane chemistry

Interesting reading:
Why silicones behave funny by Dow Corning Scientist Emeritus Michael J. Owen (PDF size 751 KB)

Explore your material options

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