The United States’ automotive industry employs more than 900,000 people, and uses 30,500 tons of silicone to make transportation more efficient, safer, and more reliable. It is important that materials used in passenger and commercial vehicles perform well, even under some of the United States’ most extreme conditions.
Because silicones can withstand exposure to very high temperatures, salt, and rain, they are used to protect and insulate engine parts to improve vehicle safety.
Silicones are used in almost all aspects of automobile assembly, from the tires to the engine, windows, and sun-roof. Ultimately silicones contribute to increased safety and reductions in automotive-related fatalities.
The automotive industry’s use of silicones in critical components has helped reduce:
- the danger to the driver and passenger
- the costs associated with vehicle break-downs and maintenance
Lighter-weight silicone components contribute to vehicle weight reductions, resulting in increased fuel efficiency and lower emissions of various pollutants. For example, the US EPA estimates that for every 10 percent reduction in the weight of the total vehicle, automobile fuel economy improves between 5-7 percent.
In addition, innovative silane-treated silica-reinforced “green” tires reduce rolling resistance, leading to fuel savings for consumers and reducing our long term use of oil.
For the United States’ shipping industry, silicone-based paints and coatings are safer alternatives to traditional marine coatings and paints. By applying these silicone-based paints and coatings to hulls of ships and boats, the buildup of dirt and film is dramatically reduced, improving fuel efficiency. For large cargo ships, this improvement is particularly important since their fuel consumption is quite large.
Silicones are also used in aircraft manufacturing from the cockpit to the cargo hold due to their durability and performance at extremes of temperature. Their use contributes to weight savings.
In the United States, 8,800 tons of silicone products are used in the healthcare industry, much of it in the country’s booming, and highly innovative, medical device sector.
Silicones are an integral part of innovative medical diagnoses and treatments, which help healthcare providers deliver the best care possible to patients. Silicones are well-tolerated by the human skin and body, and can facilitate healing, improve the appearance of existing scars, and reduce discomfort.
Medical applications and infant care products made with silicones can help satisfy the highest quality standards demanded by health care professionals and their patients.
Silicone articles and components of articles are readily sterilized and are excellent for sensitive applications, such as respiratory tubing and topical medications. Silicones do not react with other materials and do not irritate the body. They are also hypoallergenic, so they can be used safely for skin contact use as well as intravenously.
Silicone-based prosthetics or artificial joints can be molded to a cushioning shape and have the durability to retain the shape, providing maximum comfort and safety in these sensitive applications.
Even very small amounts of silicones contribute to great energy savings for American families and businesses.
For example, silicones help make LED lighting possible, which contributes to energy efficiency improvements. LED lights currently use 90 percent less energy than conventional lighting, could save $12 billion and reduce annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 60 million tons.
Silicones also help make possible innovative renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels, as well as technologies for producing traditional forms of energy, such as oil and gas.
Wind energy is one of the fastest growing major sources of non-traditional electricity around the world. In the United States, 20 million average American households are powered in a year by the current installed wind capacity. Turbines in windy places rotate, generating electricity which is fed onto the power grid. Advanced adhesives made from silicones bind the giant rotor blades of wind turbines. From 100 meters off the ground or the sea, silicone adhesives can resist the toughest conditions and the United States’ extreme temperatures, even in the winter. They reliably keep together materials that used to be difficult to unite.
While silicon is used in some 90 percent of solar panels, silicones are critical to the integrity and function of solar panels. The cost to install solar panels has dropped by more than 70 percent over the last 10 years, leading the industry to expand into new markets and deploy thousands of systems nationwide. In the first quarter of 2016, solar power generated enough electricity to power 5.7 million homes in the United States.
Metal-filled, silicone-based adhesives provide a reliable interconnection of solar cells – supporting high electrical conductivity and flexibility while contributing to lower material costs. Silicones’ resistance to UV radiation and superior transparency improve panel efficiency, while their mechanical and chemical properties reduce repair costs and ensure panels last longer.
Oil and gas
Silicones are used in the United States’ robust oil and gas industry, which employs almost 300,000 people, and is the global leader in oil and gas production. In the United States, the proportion of energy consumption from gas is almost as large as from oil, and combined they account for 62 percent of the United States’ energy sources.
Silicone antifoams allow for higher extraction rates in the oil and gas industry, reducing water usage and increasing efficiency. Silicones contribute to maintaining throughput and production in wells, rigs, refineries, and in the transportation of oils. They also deliver savings by preventing oil leakage and downstream equipment damage.
For most American families, electronics are part of everyday life.
Silicone sealants, adhesives, and coatings are used for circuits, connectors, capacitors, coils, transistors, and tubes in electronic devices for most consumer and business applications. Silicones protect various components within electronic and information communications technology equipment against heat, shock, and contaminants, which is critical in ensuring long-term stability and performance in a large number of electrical products.
Silicones have enabled electronics to become smaller with increased functionality and protect electronic devices from moisture, dust, and mechanical stress by offering adhesion, flexibility, and resilience. Silicone technology is key to long-term performance of many, increasingly small, portable, and sophisticated electronic devices, such as mobile phones, MP3 players, tablet computers, global positioning systems, hearing aids, and many more. As devices become smaller, they become more dependent on the efficient electrical and heat insulation silicones can provide.
Silicones are also used in semiconductors, and American-owned companies dominate this sector, with 51 percent of the global market. Silicones encapsulate, coat, adhere, and protect semiconductors. Semiconductors are used in PCs, smartphones, broadband internet, gaming consoles, TVs, and household appliances, to name a few.
In all, the United States uses 3,900 tons of silicones products in the electronics sector. That number could potentially increase as silicones contribute to the rapid growth of personal and medical electronics.
The United States’ personal care and consumer products industry sector uses 74,600 tons of silicone products, due to silicones’ versatility and unique properties. Silicones can be found in a wide range of products, from skin creams to make-up to deodorant to shampoos and conditioners. They provide a glossy or “smooth” feel alongside processing benefits, which include transparency, lack of taste or odor, rapid evaporation from skin, and low skin irritability – all factors that American men and women rely on.
Silicones are also used for a number of other everyday products, including household polishes and waxes. Additionally, some of our favorite kitchen products are made with silicones, such as baking mats, spatulas, and many other useful products.
In the United States, more than 89,700 tons of silicones are used for construction materials. Silicones bond with most materials, from concrete, glass, granite, and marble to aluminum, steel, and plastics. They are extremely durable and can resist the decay caused to other materials by rough weather conditions, moisture, or sunlight.
Silicone sealants can prevent humidity from entering and hot or cold air from escaping through joints and cracks, thereby making buildings more energy efficient and adding to cost savings. For example, silicones used in insulated glass units result in impressive benefits in terms of energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. For every ton of CO2 emitted during the production of the silicone products, silicones actually reduce emissions by a factor of 27.7 when the insulated windows are used.
Small amounts of silicone additives are also added in the manufacturing process of polyurethane foams used to insulate buildings, appliances, and equipment. These additives enhance the effectiveness of insulating materials, therefore helping to improve energy efficiency, and decrease energy costs for American homes.
Their flexibility can also reduce damage from small-to-medium-scale earthquakes.
Silicone sealants, adhesives, and coatings make construction materials work better and last longer. Sealants and coatings protect joints and materials from moisture, heat, corrosion, sunlight, ultraviolet radiation, pollution, and other chemicals.
Silicone coatings preserve monuments, such as the Statue of Liberty, in the United States and across the world. Silicones also make some of the most spectacular modern architectural projects possible. For example, the uninterrupted walls of glass and metal on skyscrapers are made possible because of silicone sealants and adhesives.