Silicones are a family of specialty, high-performance polymers that can be manufactured in more than 2,000 forms, from liquids to pastes to rubber. The silicone family includes silicones, siloxanes, and silanes, all of which are widely used as intermediate building blocks in thousands of products that consumers around the world rely on every day.
The first step in making silicones is the retrieval of the element silicon (Si) from silica, the second most abundant element found in the earth’s crust and the raw material from which all silicone chemistry finds it roots. By reacting silicon with methyl chloride, the first step within a complicated sequence of chemical reactions to form silicones is performed. These reactions form a wide variety of polymeric chains and networks constructed around a backbone of silicon and oxygen (Si-O-Si) repeating units. Modifying the silicon-oxygen backbone through the addition of carbon molecules produces polymers that in essence combine the physical qualities of a metal with the diversity of plastics.
The result is a family of extremely durable, versatile materials with a wide range of high-performance properties.