The History of Silicone

Silicone is a durable and popular material, used for a huge variety of purposes from industrial to medical. It is used to hold tiles in place, to make parts for cars and event to help support Bespoke Glass Balustrade in place.  Here is a brief timeline of the development of silicone.

1700 – Before the Industrial Revolution, silica-based stones and rock like quartz were used from the Stone Age and were crafted into rudimentary tools for survival. It was the Romans who began transforming sand into glass, making the evolution of silica into silicone possible.

1800 – During the 19th century, chemists began to discover how to get silicon from sand. This was important as silicone is derived from silicon, so was one of the first steps in the process.

1823 – The chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius manages to isolate silicon in its elemental form. By 1854, Henri Sainte-Claire Deville achieves synthesis of pure silicon through an electrolysis smelting method.

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20th century – This is when the commercial use of silicone really begins.

1930 – During this year, James Franklin Hyde achieves the first successful experiments in the commercial production of different silicones.

1940 – Following on from Hyde’s discoveries, Frederic Kipping was the first to produce silicone compounds and used the word ‘silicone’ for the first time. Kipping is now regarded as the ‘Father of silicone science’.

Also, in this year, two scientists working independently of each other, Eugene Rochow and Richard Muller, both achieve a method of synthesizing silicones on an industrial scale.

1950 – One of the most successful toys of the 20th century was created in 1950. As a result of engineering, chance and some entrepreneurship, Silly Putty entered toys stores, made from silicones.

1960 – A scientist named Spencer Silver invented pressure sensitive adhesives, the coated surface allowing it to stick to other materials with a little pressure and come away again easily without tearing. Arthur Fry uses this technology to invent Post-it Notes in 1973.

1969 – Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the moon was made from silicone boot sole. New silicones were also used in the making of the command and lunar modules.

1980s – Much of the development of computer technology and telecommunications would not have been possible without silicones. Silicone is used to protect materials from extremes of temperature and contamination, such as micro chips and without them, we wouldn’t have the laptops, tablets and mobile phones of today.

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21st century – Innovation continues in the development of advanced technology. Photonics is a field of science concerned with the speed of light and applications such as super-fast internet and digital communications. Silicones are proving vital to these processes.

Silicones are used extensively in the life sciences, namely biotechnology in the field of medicine. There are endless opportunities for innovation in the use of silicones in equipment like tubing, implants, switches, cabling, cleaning products and bio sensors.


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