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Published: March 2010
In 2009, the global silicone/silane market was valued approximately 24% higher than in 2005. Most of the growth in consumption occurred in China.
Silicone polymers or siloxanes are versatile materials consisting of an alternating silicon-oxygen backbone, typically with aliphatic or aromatic side groups. Other pendant side-chains, such as hydrogen, hydroxyl, amino or epoxy groups, may also be used. Silicones can be classified as fluids, elastomers or resins depending on their molecular weight, the extent of cross-linking, and the type and number of organic groups attached to the silicon atoms.
Silicones have the following distinctive properties: chemical and physical inertness, thermal and oxidative stability, low surface tension, relatively small change in viscosity with temperature or rate of shear, good low-temperature performance, water repellency and high compressibility. The -Si-O- chemical bond is found in other high-temperature materials such as quartz, glass and sand. These products share silicone’s relative inertness to ozone, weathering and other forces. However, the organic side-chains attached to the silicon atoms (as in the above example) incorporate a flexibility unmatched by most materials. The basic silicone molecule can be altered to obtain a wide range of different properties by partially replacing the methyl groups with other organic groups, permitting tailoring for specific applications.The following pie chart shows world consumption of silicones:
Over the next five years, global consumption of silicones is expected to grow at an average rate of 6.2% per year, with the most rapid growth expected to be in Asian countries other than Japan, particularly China, because of rapidly growing, export-oriented economies. Above-average growth may also occur in Central and South America. Significant new Asian capacity is available, particularly in China.