Industrial - Silicones - PMM

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Platinum and silicones

Industrial Silicone Coated Airbag Banner.jpg

Many chemical processes employ platinum catalysts but the most significant in terms of platinum demand is the manufacture of speciality silicones. Addition of a platinum compound to the silicone mixture catalyses the cross-linking or 'curing' process which results in the formation of a silicone product with the desired properties.

Silicones are highly durable materials with excellent resistance to chemical corrosion, fire and extremes of temperature. They are also pliable, waterproof and electrically insulating. It is not surprising, therefore, that silicone materials have a large number of uses in everyday life.

Release liners

One of the major applications of silicones is in release liners, used to provide 'release surfaces' against aggressive adhesives and other sticky surfaces. They are commonly used for coating the backing paper of sticky labels, allowing the label to be peeled away easily without splitting. Release liners also provide resealability as they allow the sticky surface to be removed and reapplied without loss of adhesion. Aside from use in label backing applications, silicone-based release liners are used extensively in the baking industry. Pre-baked goods are placed upon release paper, which after baking can be removed cleanly and without damaging the product.

Other applications of silicones

Other types of silicones that require platinum catalysts are water repellent coatings, high consistency rubbers and liquid silicone rubbers. Between them, these products have a vast number of applications which include furniture polishes and cleaning products, aero and automotive engine seals and gaskets, construction sealants, medical devices, high voltage cable covers and personal care products such as lipsticks and shampoos.

The use of silicones in medical elastomers is one that is showing strong growth going forward. For wound healing they have excellent properties, in that they will stick to dry skin, while not sticking to and damaging the wet wound. Silicones are also air and moisture permeable which improves the healing process.

Other applications include automotive airbag coatings. Here silicone is used to protect the nylon bag from the explosive system. The platinum cured systems are very stable in terms of being folded up for years on end without degradation. Deep sea lagging of pipes employs silicone's ability to survive extreme temperatures and pressures to keep oil flowing preventing freezing and pipe blockages.

One less industrial application is in the production of costumes and prosthetics for the film industry. Platinum curing is used as it provides the fastest curing, highest quality material. This technology has been extensively used in the recent Harry Potter films.