While silicone-based life may be the subject of what many consider to be science fiction, the role that silicone has played in life on our planet is of significant interest to the scientific community. Scottish chemist and molecular biologist Alexander Graham Cairns-Smith advocated in his 1987 book Clay Minerals and the Origin of Life that early life on earth could have evolved from a type of silicate.
The material sciences company Dow was among the first in industrial business to invest in silicone chemistry for the manufacturing sector in the late 1940s, and presently accounts for about 50% of the world’s production of silicone products.
As they continue to invest in silicone technologies, Duncan Rankin, Customer Manager at Dow, believes that silicone chemistries are relatively unchallenged when it comes to potential solutions for electrical product developments.
“Silicone rubber compounds have characteristics of both organic and inorganic materials, and offer a number of advantages not found in organic rubbers,” says Duncan. “Silicone rubbers have fine electrical properties, good chemical stability, flame retardancy and superior resistance to heat and cold.”
The Dow SILASTIC™ 9161 RTV Silicone is one example of a product that is highly geared toward specialised electrical applications. With a rubber-based curing agent, it seals and protects heavy duty cords and cables for up to 25 years without requiring further maintenance.
“The 9161 is for niche applications,” says Duncan. “It is often used in large, high-voltage junction boxes for sealing cable connections. These junction boxes can hold around a gallon of liquid and the silicone is poured inside of the box around the cables. Then a rubber-based catalyst is poured in to cure the liquid.”
BSC National Product Manager for Adhesives and Sealants Michael Rowe, explains that the volume of silicone for these kinds of applications is large, but it also requires very little maintenance once implemented.
“In application, we are talking about fairly large cables that run underground to generators, with several connection points that meet at these junctions,” explains Michael. “The Dow 9161 silicone product was designed as an ideal solution for these heavy-duty industrial wiring applications because these boxes require a fire-proof material that can provide insulation and impact resistance over long periods of time.”
Providing silicone solutions in the electrical space is something Dow has been doing for over 50 years. In recent years, Duncan says that Dow has been investing more and more in the testing of silicone technologies for electrical products.
“Electrical products are a big focus right now at Dow, in particular in EV car componentry and thermal heat management of batteries,” says Duncan. “As one of the biggest producers of silicone products, we have solutions for Electric Vehicle development, thermal management of batteries, and electrical equipment.”
Dow’s substantial history in material science development gives them a particular edge on the market with their customer base. According to Duncan, Dow’s testing process is one of their greatest strengths against leading competitors.
“Customers know they can trust our products to do what they say they will do because our testing methods are extensive for every product we develop,” says Duncan.
“If you take the Dow SILASTIC™ 9161 RTV Silicone for example, it would have undergone arduous UV testing, temperature controls, and accelerated age testing to give an indication of what it’s going to look like in 20 years,” he explains.
“If you have high voltage going through something for 20 years, you need to know what heat ranges it can withstand.”
Speaking of longevity, BSC and Dow have a longstanding partnership spanning back decades.
“We have had a very long and successful relationship with BSC,” Duncan enthuses. “They have always offered us excellence in service and a large sales support system. This has allowed us to maintain large stock of our silicones across their network of branches and eliminates the problem of logistics,” he concludes.
To explore the full range of Dow silicone products, visit a BSC branch today and speak to one of our silicone and sealants experts.