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Fascinating Silicone™ Chemistry Corner - Silanes

Silane chemistry

Silanes are the basic building blocks of silicone chemistry. A silane is a monomer with a chemical formula:

Chemical formula for a silane monomer

The epitome of versatility

R1, R2, R3, and R4 represent the four chemical groups attached to the silicon atom. These groups can be:

  • The same or different
  • Reactive or non-reactive
  • And the reactivity (if present) can be either organic or inorganic

This large number of possible combinations explains the versatility of silanes and their ability to be used in a variety of ways with carbon-based chemicals.

Inorganic reactivity

When inorganic reactive groups, such as chlorine, methoxy, or ethoxy are directly attached to silicon atoms, they will hydrolyze in the presence of water. They will then self-condense to form a stable siloxane structure ... or bond to hydroxyl groups on the surface of inorganic materials, such as glass, minerals, and metals.

Organic reactivity

A silane containing at least one carbon-silicon bond is known as an organosilane. Specific organic reactivity can be built into a silane to match the reactivity of specific organic materials.

Adding organically reactive groups, such as amino, chloro, epoxy, or methacrylate, to silicon gives the molecule the potential to replicate organic reactions.

By adding organically non-reactive groups, such as methyl, higher alkyls, cycloalkyls, phenyl, or trifuoropropyl, desirable characteristics such as hydrophobicity, organic compatibility, thermal stability, and solvent resistance can be added to the silane molecule.

Dual reactivity

Silanes with both inorganic and organic reactivity act as coupling agents and are used to chemically adhere generally incompatible substrates.

A silane acting as a chemical "hook" between inorganic and organic materials

Did you know ... like silicones, silanes are amazingly versatile. They not only improve adhesion, they can also improve electrical properties and act as moisture scavengers!

Expand your understanding

Learn about:
Silicone molecular structure
Silicone building blocks & nomenclature
Interface & surface applications

Easy reading:
Silane Chemistry Primer (PDF size 599 KB)

For chemists and engineers:
Organo-Functional Silanes (PDF size 265 KB)

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