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Butyl Rubber Vs. Silicone

by Christopher de la Torre

Rubber is an important material that has hundreds of uses. From tires to computer keyboards, rubber is present in many of the products we benefit from daily. Because rubber is a polymer, it has been combined with various materials to diversify its uses. Butyl rubber is composed of isobutene-isoprene, while silicone is made up of polysiloxane, a mix of organic and inorganic materials.

General Properties

Made of isobutylene and isoprene, butyl rubber was first sold to the masses in 1943. It is generally resistant to weather and retains air well, but has a low resistance to petroleum-based liquids. Silicone is a newer rubber polymer that holds up well in both high and low temperature environments, and is generally easier to manufacture than its predecessor.

High and Low Resistance Comparison

Butyl rubber is highly resistant to vegetable and animal fat, oil, ozone, chemicals that oxidize, acids and alkali. However, it is vulnerable to petroleum, aromatic hydrocarbons and various solvents. Silicone is resistant to oxidizing chemicals and concentrated sodium hydroxide, but is vulnerable to various solvents, oils and concentrated acids. Unlike butyl rubber, silicone has a low tear resistance.

Common Uses

Butyl rubber was first used to line tire inner tubes, and continues to be a popular air retention solution to this day. In general, butyl rubber is a preferred material for mechanical goods, hoses and construction sealants. Silicone is more diverse in its utility, and is commonly used on a smaller scale. In addition to tire tubing, it is present in many cooking utensils and computer keyboards.

About the Author

Christopher de la Torre has been writing about science and communication since 1998. His work appears on websites including Singularity Hub and in "Vogue." He holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Eastern Connecticut State University and is pursuing a master's degree in English from George Mason University.

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