What Is Pourable Silicone And How Is It Made?
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We have all encountered various forms of silicone in our everyday life, and that includes pourable silicone as well.
It’s present in our mobile phones and computers, the cars we drive and the planes we fly; it’s in the medicine we take, and the cosmetics we use, it’s in the paint on our walls, in our lubricants, and even in our breast implants.
But what is silicone, where does it come from and why is it so important?
In this article, we’ll be discussing silicone; its origin, its uses, and its advantages and disadvantages.
We will also discuss how, on a budget, you can make and use pourable silicone, from the comfort of your own home.
To understand what silicone is all about, we first have to understand where it originates from.
Table of Contents
The Origin Of Silicon
Some might think that silicon comes from Silicon Valley, due to a large number of high-tech companies and innovators, who specialize in high-quality silicon-based semiconductors and chips.
But that is not the case.
Silicon is a naturally occurring element, and it makes up to 25% of the Earth’s crust, making it the second most abundant element on our planet after Oxygen.
Silicon is commonly found in sand combined with other minerals, it’s therefore rare to find it in its pure form.
The Difference Between Silicon And Silicone
Silicon is a chemical element that is mostly mixed up with oxygen molecules, hence forming silicon dioxide, also known as quartz.
For us to get silicon in its pure form, we have to remove the oxygen by mixing it with carbon coals and heating it in a fiery furnace of 2000 degrees Celsius and above.
The carbon reacts with the oxygen in the quartz, changing it into carbon dioxide, hence leaving you with pure silicon at the bottom of the furnace.
On the other hand, Silicone is a synthetic rubber-like polymer that contains silicon, oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen.
Silicone can be in solid, liquid, or gel form.
How To Extract Silicon From Silica Sand
The extraction procedure of silicon from silica sand is a highly engaging, time-consuming but otherwise a very interesting chemical process.
Chemical Elements used to Extract the Silicon from Silica Sand
Some of the materials that you will require to extract silicon from sand are:
- Sodium hydroxide
- Distilled water
- 3M hydrochloric acid
- Sulfuric acid
The measurements will vary depending on the amount of silicon you need to extract.
Sand from the beach contains organic matter, foreign particles, various minerals, and silica particles or quartz (silicon dioxide).
Silicon dioxide is a combination of silicon and oxygen.
When you examine sand closely, you’ll notice it has various particles that are different in size, color, and texture, some particles are black, while others might be white, brown, or crystal clear.
The colorless clear crystals are the silica particles that need to be extracted from the sand.
Now, let’s talk about how you can make your own silicone at home.
Procedures Used To Isolate Silicon From Silica Sand
- First, you will need to wash the sand in distilled water to eliminate the organic matter and foreign substance materials, this will help remove anything that isn’t part of the sand
- Secondly, you’ll add the hydrochloric acid into the clean sand, this will help remove all the soluble impurities such as calcium carbonate from the sand – bubbling and effervescence is bound to occur due to the reaction between hydrochloric acid and calcium carbonate
- Mix the solution by swirling your components in a flask to ensure a thorough and complete reaction
- Decant the acid from the flask and separate it from the sand
- Wash the sand repeatedly and thoroughly with distilled water to completely wash off any acid that may have dissolved into the sand
- Take the sand out in the sun and allow it to dry
- Transfer the dried sand into a stainless steel vessel and heat it
- The eighth step is to add sodium hydroxide in the sand whilst continuously stirring until the water evaporates, the sodium hydroxide reacts with silicon dioxide in the sand to form sodium silicate (NaOH + SiO2 = Na2SiO3 + H2O), and it might take 40 to 50 minutes for the water to completely evaporate
- After the water evaporates, immediately transfer the solution into a separate porcelain bowl to prevent it from solidifying and clamping together, this solution gives you a crude sodium silicate
Stainless steel vessels and spatulas are the best tools to use while heating and stirring because stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat.
Extraction Of Silicone From Sodium Silicate
After getting your sodium silicate from the sand you will need to:
- Add small amounts of distilled water into the cooled sodium silicate while constantly stirring, this will help dissolve the sodium silicate, however, the solution that’s formed after mixing in water with the crude sodium silicate is a sodium silicate solution
- Filter the sodium silicate solution to remove any undissolved particles using the Gravity Filtration Method
- The next step is to add concentrated sulfuric acid into it whilst stirring, this will lead to the formation of silicic acid
- The silicic acid formed presents itself as a white precipitate (Na2(SiO2)7 + H2SO4 = 3.3SiO2 + Na2SO4 + H2O), however, the concentrated acid and alkaline solution are highly corrosive and one should be very careful while handling such solutions
- Filter the solution to separate the liquid from the precipitate, you can use a cotton cloth to filter out the solution because the precipitate can be very slimy and slippery – this filtration method will separate the liquid from the silicic acid
- Melt the silicic acid under high temperatures for an hour or so, and the heat will decompose the silica acid into silicon dioxide
- After pulverizing the mixture, you can grind the silicon dioxide powder into small fine particles
Now that you know what silicone is and how it can be extracted from silica, it’s time we show you the different ways to make pourable silicone using finished products that are readily available at your nearest convenience store.
But first, we need to understand what pourable silicone is.
We have learned that silicone can be in solid, liquid, or gel form, and the pourable silicone is silicone in its liquid form.
Most of the time silicone is packaged in gel or solid form and getting it in liquid form can be quite expensive, but thinning down solidified silicone helps reduce its viscosity, and this makes it pourable for mold making.
In this article, we will show you the most inexpensive ways of making your very own DIY liquid silicone.
DIY Pourable Silicone
There are different methods of making your own liquid silicone, and the first such method is:
Using 100% Acetic Acid Cure Silicone and Naphtha.
- You’ll need a zip lock bag to mix in the two ingredients
- Ziplock bags prevent spillage and they don’t create a mess while working
- Gloves – they help protect your hands from the corrosive and absorbent solvents
- A tube of 100% acetic acid cure silicone
- A can of naphtha
- And corn starch to help speed up the curing process
- Pump out the 100% acetic acid cure silicone into the center of the zip lock bag
- Add the Naphtha and work in the components for at least 15 minutes, this helps to completely thin out the silicone and to avoid forming thick lumps – Naphtha is highly flammable, and you should be very careful when handling it and also when disposing of it
- The ratio of the products will depend on how thick or thin you want your solution
- If you want it thin and runny you can add more liquid – naphtha, but if you want it slightly thick, then you can add more solid – silicone
- The solution formed after mixing silicone and naphtha is our end product – liquid silicone
- Your liquid silicone should have a smooth pastry-like consistency
- The liquid silicone may take more than 24 hours to cure
- Adding cornstarch to the thinned silicone will hasten the curing process to up to an hour
- You can now use your liquid silicone to mold any artistic designer object of your choice
- You can get creative and design the object from your wild imagination, or you can pour out the silicone into an object with a beautiful pattern to help create the design or pattern that you like
- After one hour the liquid silicone would have solidified leaving you with a beautifully designed product
- The remaining liquid silicone can be recycled or reused
Using 100% Cure Silicone and Mineral Spirits
- Ziplock bag to mix in the two ingredients
- Gloves to protect your hands from absorbing the solvent which in this case is the mineral spirits
- Mask to protect our lungs from inhaling the toxic mineral spirits
- Eyeglasses to protect our eyes from the eye-tearing spirits
- 100% acetic acid cure silicone
- A can of mineral spirits also known as mineral turpentine or white spirit
- Corn starch to fasten the curing process
- Prepare a clean ziplock bag, the ziplock bag can be recycled or reused
- The odor from the mineral spirit is quite strong, moreover, it will also make your eyes tear and your nose run
- Use protective equipment such as eyeglasses, masks, and gloves (which are also made from silicone) to cover your eyes, nose, and hands
- The eyeglasses and masks will help prevent the solvent from affecting your eyes and lungs, and the gloves will protect your hands from absorbing the solvent
- Pump out the 100% cure silicone into the ziplock bag
- Pour in the mineral spirit, just enough to thin out the silicone
- Work the two components thoroughly until they are completely mixed, make sure that there are no lumps formed
- The consistency will depend on how thick or thin you want the liquid silicone to be
- If you want the solution to be thick, add more silicone, but if you prefer it thinner, then add more mineral spirit
- The combination of both silicone and mineral spirit forms the liquid silicone, and it might take more than 24 hours to cure
- Adding cornstarch to the thinned out silicone helps speed up the curing process to about one hour
- After getting your liquid silicone, you can use it to make any mold of your choice
Using 100% Cure Silicone And Silicone Oil
Silicone oil is a friendlier liquid, it’s non-flammable and it’s not corrosive, moreover, silicone oils are widely used as lubricants, hydraulic fluids, and cosmetics.
Silicone oil is also used in general medicine and eye surgery because its non-solvent and lubricating properties make it safe for use in skin and food products.
- A ziplock bag to mix in the ingredients
- Silicone oil
- 100% acetic acid cure silicone
- Prepare the ziplock bag
- Ziplock bags are easy to use while mixing because they do not make a mess of your work station
- Pump in the 100% acetic acid cure silicone into the ziplock bag
- Pour in the silicone oil into the silicone, use as much as is needed to thin out the silicone
- Vigorously work in the mixture to make sure the two are well combined and that no lumps have been formed
- You should have a smooth pastry-like consistency
- The thickness or thinness of the consistency depends on how thick or thin you want your liquid silicone solution to be
Using 100% Cure Silicone and Paint Thinner
- Ziplock bag to mix in the solution
- Gloves to protect your hands from stains and from absorbing the solvent
- 100% acetic acid cure silicone
- A can of paint thinner
- Corn starch
- Prepare your ziplock bag
- Put on your protective gloves to prevent your hands from absorbing the solvent
- Pump in the 100% cured silicone into the ziplock bag
- Pour in a sufficient amount of paint thinner into the ziplock bag as well
- Thoroughly mix in the two components while ensuring there are no lumps formed
- You can add more silicone or paint thinner depending on how thick or thin you want the liquid silicone to be
- While cornstarch might thicken your liquid silicone, it also helps to fasten the curing process to about an hour
- Your liquid silicone is ready to be used or poured into the perfect mold
These are the four most lucrative methods to use when making your own liquid silicone, you may have noticed that we used 100% acetic acid cured silicone in each method, but that’s only because it’s very necessary for the curing process.
Silicone is mostly found in a rubber gel-like state, and for it to be converted into solid, it must be catalyzed, vulcanized, or cured.
Cured silicone is the best silicone to use when converting solidified silicone into liquified silicone.
However, you can substitute the 100% acetic acid cure silicone with CopyFlex.
Uses Of Pourable Silicone
This type of silicone can be used to mold simple home-made objects such as jewelry, flower vases, cup holders, key holders, soap, fridge magnets, or whatever it is that you’re thinking of.
You can also promote sustainable GEO by replacing plastics with your very own hand-made designer silicone molds.
Uses Of Silicone
We have looked at liquid silicone, methods of making it, and how to use it to make molds, but did you know that silicone goes above and beyond just making molds?
It’s so deeply ingrained in our everyday lives that society as a whole can’t live without it, let’s have an in-depth look at the uses of silicone in our world.
Silicone products are resistant to bacteria, they are unreactive with most chemicals, and are easy to sterilize, moreover, they’re also biocompatible with human tissues and they, therefore, do not cause any irritations or allergic reactions in the body.
Silicone is mostly used in infant care products, medicine where it can be used to make lubricants, prosthetics, and breast implants.
Personal Care Products
Silicone ingredients can be found in skincare products and hair care products.
Silicone has long-lasting properties that help hair products retain their color and shine in shampoos, conditioners, and other hair treatments.
Silicone offers a luxuriant texture that aids in a silky and smooth application of skincare products.
The non-irritant property found in silicone also helps to reduce the white residue and tacky feel in antiperspirants, therefore, it can be used to make deodorants as well.
Silicone found in kitchenware has flexible, long-lasting, and non-stick properties that make them easy to clean.
It has a high tolerance for extreme temperatures, therefore silicone products can be used to bake and cook at high temperatures, while the silicone tins used to store food in the freezer at extremely low temperatures do not affect the quality of food.
Silicone also has softening properties; it’s therefore used in fabric softeners to help preserve newness, and the elasticity of silicone materials also helps to smoothen out wrinkles in fabrics.
Silicone sealants, adhesives, and coatings help electronic components remain protected from shock, moisture, heat, salt, corrosion, and contaminants.
This ensures the long-term stability and performance of mobile phones, computers, cars, and airplanes.
Silicone sealants, adhesives, and coatings bond diverse materials such as concrete, glass, steel, and plastics during construction, which ensures that the materials stay affixed during stressful movements such as strong winds and earthquakes.
Sealants and coatings protect materials from heat, moisture, sunlight, corrosion, and radiation in buildings.
Silicone’s water repellent properties help to seal out water from swimming gear i.e.
goggles and diving masks.
This offers comfort while engaging in leisure activities and helps you focus well during competitions.
Its anti-slip, lightweight, durable and breathable characteristics make it the ideal sportswear to be used in sport-related products because it offers comfort, durability, and protection from harsh conditions.
Advantages Of Silicone
The non-toxic and non-irritant materials in silicone make it safe to use in body products and food products.
Silicone is more environmentally friendly than plastic due to its inert state and it’s also a natural product seeing that it’s derived from sand, thus if we are hoping to live a life without plastic, we should consider silicone as a substitute for plastic.
Extreme Temperature Resistance
Silicone can tolerate extremely high temperatures with a maximum limit of 305 degrees Celsius while still maintaining its structure and properties.
Silicone also withstands extremely low temperatures without losing its flexibility and elasticity.
Silicone can withstand stress and extreme temperatures, therefore the adhesives and sealant properties in it are ideal in construction.
The sealant is not brittle because it has less oil content, it has a dense composition and it has a high elasticity making it easier to follow the construction movement.
Silicone rubber has a silicon-oxygen base which is a thermally resistant waterproofing material.
The waterproof silicone rubber effectively waterproofs porous surfaces in buildings, such as stone and wood, and also in sports apparel.
Disadvantages Of Silicone
Silicone is expensive due to the high energy costs used in its manufacturing and processing, moreover, it also requires expensive products for its manufacture, such as copper metal and hydrogen fluoride.
Sensitivity To Various Substances
Substances like sulfur clay prevent the silicone from curing, this is known as cure inhibition, and uncured or unvulcanized silicone is very difficult to handle because it’s in the solid form.
High viscosity in silicone makes it very thick and thick silicone can be very difficult to deal with.
It’s therefore recommended to mix in methylated spirits or white gas to make it liquified, which is easier to make molds with.
Pourable silicone is exactly what we need to make our own long-lasting, recyclable, and biodegradable products.
When biodegradable products are disposed of, they decompose into healthy components and this helps to reduce toxic waste from our planet.
In this article, we’ve seen the advantages and benefits of using silicone as a biodegradable product, and these advantages surpass the disadvantages tremendously.
Based on the evidence provided, we’ve seen that silicone is not only safe for human use and the environment in general, but it’s also efficient, effective, and most importantly, beneficial.
You do not need to break the bank to purchase liquid silicone, you can simply follow the guidelines provided in this article to make your very own safe liquid silicone at home.
Have you tried making yours yet?
Feel free to share your experience with us in the comments below.