Benefits and Uses
Explore the benefits and uses of silicones.
In China, 67,600 tons of silicones are used each year in the production of construction materials, comprising 41% of sales volume in this sector in Asia. Since 2010, the construction sector accounts for about 9% of employment in China.
Silicone products used in construction include sealants, adhesives, and protective coatings. These silicone products help protect, strengthen, preserve, and provide aesthetic and innovative features to buildings. Silicones are used widely in construction because they:
- Bond with many materials, like concrete, glass, granite, marble, aluminum, steel, and plastics
- Are durable and resist decay caused from rough weather conditions, moisture, or sunlight
- Make buildings energy efficient by preventing humidity and hot or cold air from coming through joints and cracks when applied as sealants; contributes to the manufacture of thermal insulation
- Provide flexibility, which reduces damage from small to medium-scale earthquakes
Thanks to these unique properties, silicones are essential not only in residential and office buildings, but also in bridges, oil rigs, industrial plants, and pipelines.
Silicones used in construction materials can contribute to sustainability and energy efficiency:
- Silicone sealants can last up to 3 times longer than organic materials used in the same applications
- Applying silicone resin emulsion paints to an unprotected building façade can reduce heat loss by up to 40%
- Silicone additives or coatings can reduce uptake of water by up to 80% compared to traditional building materials. This reduces degradation and lengthens the operational lifetime of the material treated
The electronics sector in China purchases almost $169 million of silicone products annually, accounting for 43% of silicone products purchased in Asia. While silicones are used in many different electronic goods, they are critical in the manufacturing of information communications technologies, a sector in which China has a large market share. Silicones are also used in semiconductors and LED lights.
Silicone sealants, adhesives, and coatings are used for circuits, connectors, capacitors, coils, transistors, and tubes in electronic devices for consumer and business applications. Silicones protect various components against heat, shock, and contaminants. This technology is critical in ensuring long-term stability and performance of increasingly small, portable, and sophisticated electronic devices we depend on, such as:
- Mobile phones
- MP3 players
- Tablet computers
- Global positioning systems
- Hearing aids
- LED lights
Silicones also contribute to energy efficiency in lighting.
- Sales of LED lighting products in China is expected to account for 70% of the total sales of the lighting industry in 2020, which can save as much as 340 billion kWh of electricity and reduce up to 306 million tons of CO2 emissions
- LED lights, which contain silicone, use 90% less energy than conventional lighting
- Use of silicones in LED devices results in lower optical losses, increased brightness and duration, and greater protection and reliability, contributing to reducing replacement, maintenance costs, and solid waste generation
Overall, silicones contribute to enhanced energy efficiency, connectivity, mobile working, and power of electronics.
The healthcare sector in China purchases $12 million per year of silicones, which are used in a broad range of medical devices, specialized medical equipment, and pharmaceuticals. China is the largest direct employer in the pharmaceutical industry, employing 1.6 million people.
Silicones are hydrophobic, hypoallergenic, and non-reactive with most chemicals. Their chemical stability, durability, and elastic nature can make silicones ideal for use in applications involving long-term implantation in the human body. They are known for biocompatibility and biodurability, due to their inherent chemical and thermal stability, low surface tension, and ease of sterilization.
Silicones are used in hundreds of health care applications, including:
- Impression molds in dental care
- Intravenous drug and transfusion delivery systems
- Ventilation masks
- Cooling caps for chemotherapy treatments
- Ventilation bags
- Breathing tubes
- Medical adhesive applications
- Topical medications
- Anti-acid medications
Because silicones are well tolerated by the human skin and body, they help:
- Facilitate healing
- Improve the appearance of existing scars
- Reduce discomfort
- Reduce patient risk
- Enable life enhancing devices
- Contribute towards various innovations