People are often confused about whether silicone is a type of plastic, and few know precisely how silicone is made and what it is frequently used for.
What are silicones?
The simple answer is that they are a kind of hybrid between plastic polymers and synthetic rubber. Being composed of many repeating small units, or polymers, makes them a bit like plastics in terms of how they are formed. Like plastics, silicones have many great properties, such as being flexible, resistant to water, malleable, and generally impervious to fatigue in a wide range of temperatures.
Like plastics, silicones are synthetic substances. But unlike plastics, silicones have a backbone made up of silicon dioxide molecules. Silica is frequently found in nature, especially on beaches, where the sand is largely composed of silica. Sand is a vital part of the building industry. To learn more, see this report in The Guardian about possible sand shortages.
When heated to a high temperature, silica can become silicon, and then it can be combined with fossil fuel hydrocarbons to create siloxane polymer units that can be bonded in a repeating structure to make silicone resin. The uses of the silicones produced depend on the purity and quality of the original ingredients used to make them. Silicones tend to be extremely stable and are relatively inert in the presence of most chemicals, which make them generally safe to use in a wide range of applications.
Silicones can be used in many ways as they are easy to keep clean and easy to mould. If you feel inspired to find out more about the possibilities of silicone moulding, it would be worthwhile to consult a firm such as http://www.meadex.co.uk, where the staff can tell you everything you want to know about silicone moulding and its applications.
Most scientists consider silicones to be safe and non toxic, and they are often used in the pharmaceutical and food industries where a high degree of hygiene is required. Silicone seals can also be very useful to make containers made from materials such as glass or stainless steel water- or air-tight. There are no known hazards to health that are associated with silicones, and they can be used with confidence in preparing food, packaging beverages or with medical products.