Silicone is now widely used in a variety of industries as it is chemically inert and has low thermal conductivity. However, its industrial use dates back less than one hundred years.
Silicone development for industrial uses began in 1930 when research started by James Franklin Hyde looked at producing silicones commercially. Doctor Hyde’s work was based on transforming compounds which contain silicon into silicones. Frederick Stanley Kipping then took this work further in 1940, and it was Doctor Kipping who came up with the name ‘silicones’. Two different researchers, called Eugene George Rochow and Richard Gustav Muller, both developed methods for making silicones in large quantities in 1940.
Silicone in toys
American research during World War II was used to develop a product which contained viscoelastic silicone. This product is better known as Silly Putty and it was launched as a toy in the USA in 1950.
Silicone on the moon
When Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969 and Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon, silicone was used to make the soles of his boots. Silicone was also used in the lunar landing and control modules to protect the crew and the systems they depended on.
Silicones in the modern world
More recently, the uses of silicone have expanded into the car, food, medical and electrical industries.
Silicone hoses, such as those produced by goodflexrubber.com/pages/silicone-hose-manufacture/, have a wide range of applications in vehicle manufacture. For example, silicone hoses are used to transport power steering and brake fluids.
Silicones can be easily sterilised and are resistant to bacteria, making them perfect for many medical applications. They are hypoallergenic, which is one reason why silicone breast implants are the most commonly used type in the UK.
Silicone is now increasingly found in our kitchens where it is used to make baking and cooking utensils. It is flexible and non-stick, which makes it easy to use and clean, and it does not add flavour to food during cooking.
In recent years, the field of electronics has made huge advances and silicones have played a significant role in this. Silicones encapsulate, seal and bond parts of circuits and microprocessors, which means they are protected from high temperatures, water, salt and corrosion. Silicone is also used to make hardware such as keypads and keyboards.