Some of the most useful properties of silicone include:
In some cases organic side groups can be used to link two or more of these -Si-O- backbones together. By varying the -Si-O- chain lengths, side groups, and crosslinking, silicones can be synthesized with a wide variety of properties and compositions. They can vary in consistency from liquid to gel to rubber to hard plastic. The most common siloxane is linear polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a silicone oil. The second largest group of silicone materials is based on silicone resins, which are formed by branched and cage-like oligosiloxanes.
During polymerization, this reaction evolves potentially hazardous hydrogen chloride gas. For medical uses, a process was developed where the chlorine atoms in the silane precursor were replaced with acetate groups, so that the reaction product of the final curing process is nontoxic acetic acid (vinegar). As a side effect, the curing process is also much slower in this case. This is the chemistry used in many consumer applications, such as silicone caulk and adhesives.
Silane precursors with more acid-forming groups and fewer methyl groups, such as methyltrichlorosilane, can be used to introduce branches or cross-links in the polymer chain. Ideally, each molecule of such a compound becomes a branch point. This can be used to produce hard silicone resins. Similarly, precursors with three methyl groups can be used to limit molecular weight, since each such molecule has only one reactive site and so forms the end of a siloxane chain.
Modern silicone resins are made with tetraethoxysilane, which reacts in a more mild and controllable manner than chlorosilanes.
The word "silicone" is derived from ketone. Dimethylsilicone and dimethyl ketone (a.k.a. acetone) have analogous formulas, thus it was surmised (incorrectly) that they have analogous structures. The same terminology is used for compounds such as silane (an analogue of methane).
A true silicone group with a double bond between oxygen and silicon (see figure) does not exist in nature; chemists find that the silicon atom forms a single bond with each of two oxygen atoms, rather than a double bond to a single atom. Polysiloxanes are called "silicone" due to early mistaken assumptions about their structure.
Aquarium manufacturers have used silicone sealant exclusively from its inception in order to join glass plates, making aquariums of every size and shape. Glass joints made with silicone sealant can withstand hundreds of metric tons of pressure, making obsolete the original aquarium construction method using angle-iron and putty.
Automotive spark plug wires are often insulated by multiple layers of silicone to prevent sparks from jumping to adjacent wires, causing misfires. The insulation also minimizes RFI, which can interfere with an engine management computer.
Silicone tubing is sometimes used in automotive intake systems (especially for engines with forced-induction) .
Automotive body manufacturing plants and paint shops must avoid the presence of all silicones, as they may cause "fish eyes," small, circular craters that appear in the finish.
The solvent degrades into silica and trace amounts of water and CO2, and waste produced from the D5 drycleaning process is nontoxic and nonhazardous. This significantly reduces the environmental impact of a typically high-polluting industry.
Additionally, liquid silicone is chemically inert, meaning it does not react with fabrics or dyes during the cleaning process. This reduces the amount of fading and shrinking that most dry-cleaned garments experience.
Silicones are used where durability and high performance are demanded of components under hard conditions, such as in space (satellite technology). They are selected over polyurethane or epoxy encapsulation when a wide operating temperature range is required (−65 to 315 °C). Silicones also have the advantage of little exothermic heat rise during cure, low toxicity, good electrical properties and high purity.
The use of silicones in electronics is not without problems, however. Silicones are relatively expensive and can be attacked by solvents. Silicone easily migrates as either a liquid or vapor onto other components.
Silicone contamination of electrical switch contacts can lead to failures by causing an increase in contact resistance, often late in the life of the contact, well after any testing is completed. Use of silicone-based spray products in electronic devices during maintenance or repairs can cause later failures.
When properly installed, silicone-foam firestops can be fabricated for building code compliance. Advantages include flexibility and high dielectric strength. Disadvantages include combustibility (hard to extinguish) and significant smoke development.
Silicone can also be found in air craft technology.
Silicone spray is one lubricant well suited for a Rubik's Cube.
A mold made of silicone generally requires little or no mold release or surface preparation as most materials do not adhere to moldmaking silicone.
For experimental uses, ordinary one-part silicone can also be used, either to make molds, or to mold into shapes. Common vegetable cooking oils and petroleum jelly can be used on mating surfaces as a mold release agent. Silicone Caulk Molds RTV SILICONE RUBBER MOLD
Silicones are also used in some shaving products and personal lubricants. Menstrual cups are often made of silicone for its durability and reusability. Silicone is also material of choice for soft sex toys, due to its durability, cleanability and lack of phthalates, chemicals suspected of having carcinogenic and mutagenic effects on the skin and mucus membranes. One review of the health risks of phthalates advocated moving away from medical devices containing phthalates because of their toxicity.
The strength and reliability of silicone rubber is widely acknowledged in the construction industry.
One-part silicone sealants and caulks are in common use to seal gaps, joints and crevices in buildings. One-part silicones cure by absorbing atmospheric moisture, which helps in the professional installation.
In plumbing, silicone grease is typically applied to O-rings in faucets and valves. Whilst the film is extant it prevents lime from sticking to the brasswork.