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The Fascinating World of Silicones and their Impact on Coatings

Donald T. Liles


Silicones were commercialized in the 1940s in the United States and ever since their introduction; silicones have expanded remarkably not only in terms of economic growth but also by an amazingly diverse assortment of product types and applications. Silicones represent a class of compounds that are based on silicon and they exist in a variety of forms including oils, fluids, high viscosity polymers, gums, elastomers, resins and silanes. Silicones’ involvement in coatings began with the early stages of silicone product development and today they are used extensively in coatings mainly as either modifiers or additives. Typical modified coatings contain around 30 percent of the binder as silicone and these coatings exhibit improved weatherability, increased moisture vapor transport, and improved heat stability. Silicone additives are used in small amounts in coatings, usually less than one percent and even lower, to achieve various enhanced properties such as improved flow & leveling, slip & antimar, improved abrasion resistance, improved adhesion, foam control and water repellency. Although silicones are useful for eliminating or diminishing surface defects, they are also capable of producing surface defects. An understanding of phenomena surrounding surface defects can aid the coatings formulator to avoid surface defects caused by silicones. This paper will present a brief history of silicone development, a description of what silicones are and how they are used in coatings.

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