Silicone polymers or, to give them their correct name, polysiloxanes, include any inert compound with repeating groups of silicon and oxygen atoms (Si-O bonds), usually bound with carbon and/or hydrogen atoms. Though carbon can be part of the polymer, it is not part of the background structure. Within the periodic table, silicon is in the same group as carbon but has very different properties and chemistry.
Silanes, or compounds comprising of silicon atoms bonded with other silicon atoms (Si-Si bonds) or hydrogen atoms (Si-H bonds), are very reactive and less stable than silicone polymers, therefore less useful. The basic alternating Si-O structure is found throughout nature, such as in sand.
A number of different organic groups can be bonded to the silicon, such as methyl, leading to a large variety of possible compositions and properties. Their useful characteristics include heat resistance, water repellency, and low toxicity. Their consistency can vary from hard plastic to rubber, to gel or to liquid.
This variety leads to their use in many areas, such as rubber materials, grease or oil. Benefits such as not becoming viscous and not decomposing at high temperatures mean silicone oils are highly sought after. This hugely diverse group of compounds are also used in hydraulic fluids, moisture proofing agents, electrical insulators and silicone hoses, such as those produced by https://www.goodflexrubber.com/pages/silicone-hose-manufacture.
Further uses for the various forms of silicone include in the automotive industry, during the dry cleaning process, for electronics, in plumbing or construction, and in cookware, as discussed by The Independent.
There are significant medical uses for silicone polymers, due to their chemically inert nature. Temporary or permanently implanted devices can be made of silicone and approved by medical authorities. Consumable medical devices such as gastric bags, tubing, catheters, and drains are often molded from silicone polymers. The silicone rubber of appropriate grade for permanent implants has a longer linear chain length and there are silicone oils of low molecular weight added to aid the spread of silica fume fillers, which are removed via vacuum mixing at high temperatures. Whereas silicone used for consumable products are taken from the molds whilst still hot, which prevents the need for chilling and simplifies the required design of the mold.
It seems this diverse, adaptable material will continue to be used in new and exciting ways.