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Silicones and Sustainability

Silicone might sound like one material, but it is in fact a family of varied, specialty, high-performance materials. The widespread use of silicones in everything from automobiles to electronics to solar panels helps enhance existing materials and make new ones possible. Silicones are incorporated into thousands of products in a variety of industrial and consumer applications.

Sustainability within the Sectors

The use of silicones in industrial and consumer applications affords a range of useful product performance characteristics including facilitating products to last longer, providing flexibility or rigidity, and the ability to withstand extreme temperatures and humidity, thus reducing the resource and energy consumption of the products in which silicones are used. Silicones help make products more sustainable in several sectors, including the transportation, electronics, energy and consumer product sectors.

Over 117,000 tons of silicones are used in the transport sector annually, which includes automotive, marine, aviation, and aerospace. Silicone rubber, elastomers, sealants, lubricants, and plastic additives can help with sustainability by improving strength, durability while also helping to achieve products that are lighter in weight. For example, car batteries can last longer due to silicones protecting them from the heat, cold and other elements. The fuel efficiency that many vehicles are able to achieve are a result of the lightweight plastic material silicones help produce.

Electronic products like smartphones, computers and kitchen appliances are part of our everyday lives.  Silicones are responsible for helping to protect the electronic components in these products from extreme heart, moisture, and corrosion. This helps these products use less energy and last longer. In addition, because of silicones’ protective properties, many technological and electronic innovations in electronic devices, components, assemblies and systems are possible.

The energy sector plays a major role in sustainability through its development of renewable energy sources. Solar panels and wind turbines are two sources of renewable energy, and silicones are a major component of them. In solar panels, the mechanical and chemical properties in silicones’ encapsulants help reduce repair costs and achieve a long-lasting use. Silicone bonding agents and lubricants used in the manufacturing of wind turbines can increase the durability and weather resistance of the rotor blades.

Consumer products are items we use on a daily basis, from the cleaning products that keep our houses neat to the jackets we wear to protect ourselves from the weather. Silicones’ presence in these products help make them more sustainable. For example, silicones are used as an antifoaming agent in laundry detergents and fabric softeners, which helps reduce water and energy consumption in washing machines. For textiles, silicones enable new techniques to design sportswear that is lightweight, durable, water repellent, and high performing, while allowing the fabric to breathe.

To learn more about silicones, its uses, benefits and contributions to sustainability, visit the Silicones Environmental, Health, and Safety Center.

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