Improving a product’s water resistance is an important value-added process that can be helpful in a range of environmental conditions. Waterproof materials have applications in underwater projects, semi-submerged aquatic settings, and in general weather protection services. But whether shielding an outdoor structure from rain or producing clothing that is impenetrable to liquid, the majority of waterproofing processes rely on silicon to some degree.
Applying a breathable, water-resistant coating to a porous surface usually involves silicon-based materials. The most common varieties include siloxane, silane, and silicone rubber, which are appealing due to their effectiveness in penetrating substrates without compromising porousness. In addition to being silicon-based, these materials share a number of other characteristics, including a high level of breathability and the capacity for being applied to most products without noticeably altering their appearance. But despite their similarities, siloxane, silane, and silicone rubber products each have their own distinct attributes that affect how they are manufactured and used.
Both silane and siloxane are produced from a raw silane compound, which is itself composed of silicon (not to be confused with silicone) and hydrogen. When its chemical bonds are broken from decomposition, silane reverts to its silicon and hydrogen bases. Manufacturers produce industrial-grade silane by mixing powdered silicon with hydrogen chloride at high temperatures, then boiling the mixture with a catalyzing substance. The result is an odorous compound that can be used as a bonding agent for composite materials, as an industrial sealant, or for waterproofing purposes.
Compared to similar silicon-based waterproofing materials, silane has a relatively small molecular structure suitable for application on smooth concrete or other dense surfaces. In waterproofing, silane is applied to a substrate and penetrates it to a certain depth. Then, an alkaline chemical reaction occurs, creating resin. Unlike silicone rubber, this resin yields no elastomeric properties. The silane bonds with the substrate, narrowing any porous channels and making them too small for water molecules to breach. The end result is a water-resistant surface. However, due to its volatility, nearly half of the silane can evaporate before resin formation is complete.
Siloxane is also formed with raw silane material, but includes oxygen in its initial silicon-hydrogen base. It has a larger molecular structure than silane, allowing it to be used for waterproofing slightly more porous surfaces, and its chemical makeup is not prone to evaporation before the resin is formed. Siloxane undergoes an alkaline chemical reaction within the substrate, resulting in a resin that blocks water from entering the porous gaps in a product. While it penetrates to a greater depth than silicone rubber, siloxane cannot penetrate a substrate as deeply as silane.
Due to their molecular configuration, siloxanes and silanes are incapable of waterproofing highly porous, lightweight materials, such as shale. In addition, they both require the presence of silica within a substrate in order to catalyze the reaction that creates resin, meaning they are usually unsuitable for waterproofing stone or wood surfaces. Siloxane and silane both have weak resistance to acid rain, sodium, ultraviolet light, and a range of corrosive airborne particles. Generally, these waterproofing materials are prone to wear, resulting in a lifespan of only a few years.
Silicone rubber is a thermally resistant waterproofing material with a silicon-oxygen base. As a type of rubber, it exhibits standard elastomeric properties, such as high flexibility and tensile strength. When used in waterproofing, it is usually room temperature vulcanized and can undergo a chemical reaction to form resin in a substrate without the presence of alkaline or silica. This allows silicone rubber to effectively waterproof very porous surfaces, such as those made of natural stone and wood. Some of the other defining characteristics of silicone rubber include:
• Increased Resistance: Due to the production and refinement processes required to make silicone rubber, it is essentially an inorganic material. This makes it more resistant than silane and siloxane are to acid rain, ultraviolet light, sodium, and corrosive airborne particles.
• Elasticity: Even after vulcanization, silicone rubber retains much of its original flexibility, enabling it to repair minor cracks or fractures in a substrate when applied as a waterproofing material.
• Longevity: Its broader range of resistances allows silicone rubber to maintain a waterproof seal for longer periods than its silane and siloxane counterparts.
Although it is less prone to deterioration than silane and siloxane, silicone rubber also penetrates surfaces to a shallower depth, meaning its waterproof seal only adheres to the surface of a product or structure.
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