Silicone and rubber are both elastomers. Silicone is a polymer containing silicon together with carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Silicone and rubber can both be found in a wide variety of products, including automotive applications; cooking, baking, and food storage products; apparel such as undergarments, sportswear, and footwear; electronics; medical devices and implants; and in home repair and hardware with products such as silicone sealants. Although they both are elastomers and exhibit viscoelastic behaviour, they are different in atomic structure and show different features.
Silicone is also known as poly siloxanes. These are polymers that include any inert, synthetic compound made up of repeating units of siloxane, which is a chain of alternating silicon atoms and oxygen atoms, frequently combined with carbon and/or hydrogen.
All the elastomers are considered rubbers. Rubbers can be stretched largely and can return to the original dimension. These materials show a glass transition temperature due to their amorphous structure. Synthetic polyisoprene, styrene butadiene rubber, nitrile rubber, polychloroprene, and silicone are similar to natural rubber. One of the key differences between silicone and rubber is that most of the rubbers contain polymer chains of carbon, however, silicone rubbers contain silicon in polymer chains instead of carbon.
Comparison of silicone and rubber
UV light or extreme temperature resistance
Rubber is a dying material which starts to change from the moment it is produced. The process of damage to the rubber will increase by stress, pressure, and changes in temperature and by exposure to UV light which can in turn, effect the density, colour, hardness and texture. Silicone, however is not affected by UV light or extremes in temperature. Eventual fails can result in simple tears, providing a clear indication that it needs replacing without causing any long term contamination.
Longevity of products like rubber and silicone in relation to their cost is a financial and hygienic issue for many industries. Silicone lasts approximately four times longer than rubber while its price is around twice the price of rubber. Therefore, using silicone may save financially in long-term. More than that, the hassle and manpower to replace the item would be reduced substantially.
The use of toxic additives
Rubber requires toxic additives to stabilize. Despite attempts to reduce the use of arguable carcinogens in the production of rubber, it is still inevitably reflected on the stability of the rubber. In contrast with rubber, the production process to create quality silicone does not require the addition of questionable stabilizing agents.
Medical and food processing applications
Silicone is a suitable material to be used for medical applications and for use within the food processing industry due to its unique properties compared to rubber. The longevity of silicone and its resistance towards pressure and temperature make it an ideal material which can withstand continuous stresses and pressures for a far longer period than rubber and without corroding or cracking in the process. Less contamination, long term financial savings and an all-round more hygienic structure all contribute to the advantages of using silicone.