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macromolecular compounds that contain atoms of silicon, carbon, and other elements in the repeating unit of the macromolecule. Three main groups of silicones are distinguished, depending on the chemical structure of the main chain:

(1) Silicones with inorganic main chains that consist of alternating atoms of silicon and other elements (oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur, aluminum, titanium, boron, and so on). In this case, carbon is present only in the groups that surround the main chain.

(2) Silicones with organoinorganic main chains that consist of alternating atoms of silicon, carbon, and in some cases, oxygen.

(3) Silicones with organic main chains (see Table 1).

The most thoroughly studied and most widely used polymers are the polyorganosiloxanes, polymetalloorganosiloxanes, and polyorganosilazanes.

By analogy with other polymers, the silicones may be divided into linear, branched, cyclolinear (ladder polymers), and crosslinked

Table 1. Main types of linear silicones
NameStructure of main chain
1If E is a metal, the polymers are called polymetalloorganosiloxanes
Polymers with inorganic main chains
Polyorganosiloxanes ............Silicones
Polyheteroorganosiloxanes1 ........
Polyorganosilazanes ............
Polymers with organoinorganic main chains
Polyorganophenylenesiloxanes ......
Polymers with organic main chains
Polyalkenylsilanes ...........Silicones

linked (including cyclic network) polymers, depending on the structure of the main polymer chain.

Polyorganosiloxanes. Many features of the mechanical and physicochemical properties of polyorganosiloxanes are related to the high degree of flexibility of their molecules and to the relatively small intermolecular interactions. The high flexibility of the polysiloxane chain is lost in the transition from linear to ladder structure.

Linear and branched polyorganosiloxanes with fairly low molecular weights are viscous, colorless fluids. Macromolecular linear polyorganosiloxanes are elastomers, whereas crosslinked and branched polyorganosiloxanes are elastic or brittle vitreous materials. The linear, branched, and ladder polymers are soluble in most organic solvents (slightly soluble in the lower alcohols). Polyorganosiloxanes are resistant to most acids and alkalies. Scission of the Si—O bonds in siloxanes is achieved only by concentrated alkali hydroxides and concentrated sulfuric acid.

The polyorganosiloxanes are characterized by high thermal stability (determined by the high energy of the Si—O bond) and by excellent dielectric properties. Thus, for crosslinked polydimethylphenylsiloxane at 20°C the tangent of the dielectric phase angle is (1-2) X 10-3, the dielectric permeability is 3.0-3.5 (at 800 hertz), specific volume electric resistance is 103 teraohmmeters (1017 ohms • cm), and electric strength is 70–100 kilovolts per mm for a sample thickness of 50 microns. The mechanical strength of the polyorganosiloxanes is fairly low compared to that of such highly polar polymers as the poly-amides. Polyorganosiloxanes are prepared by four methods:

(1) Hydrolytic polycondensation of organosilicon compounds, which is the most important industrial method for the synthesis of silicones. It is based on the fact that many functional groups bonded to silicon (alcoxy, acyloxy, and amino groups; halogens) are readily hydrolyzed, for example,

R2SiCl2 + 2H20 → R2Si(OH)2 + 2HC1

The resulting organosilanols immediately undergo polycondensation, leading to the formation of cyclic compounds:

nR2Si(OH)2 → [ SiR2—O—]n + nH2O

which then polymerize according to a cationic or anionic mechanism. Polymers with a linear, branched, ladder, or crosslinked structure may be formed, depending on the functionality of the monomers.

(2) Ionic polymerization of cyclic organosiloxanes, which is used in the synthesis of elastomers having molecular weights of the order of 600,000 and higher, as well as of ladder and branched polymers.

(3) Heterofunctional polycondensation of organosilicon compounds containing various functional groups, for example,

(4) Interchange decomposition reaction, in which sodium salts of organosilanols react with organochlorosilanes or with halogen-containing metal salts, for example,

nNaOSi(CH3)2 O[—Si(CH3)2—O—] mSi(CH3)2ONa
+ nCH3(C6H5)SiCl2

This method has found practical use in the synthesis of polymetalloorganosiloxanes.

Polyorganosiloxanes are used in the production of various electrical insulation materials, as well as heat-resistant plastics (particularly glass-fiber-reinforced plastics) and silicone cements. Silicone rubbers and oils are also widely used.

Polyheteroorganosiloxanes. The introduction of metal atoms into the siloxane polymer chain substantially changes the physical and chemical properties of the polymers. Polyalumino-phenylsiloxane and polytitanophenylsiloxane, which contain one metal atom for every three to ten atoms of silicon, do not soften upon heating and have thermomechanical curves that are typical for crosslinked polymers, but they retain their solubility in organic solvents. On introduction of plasticizers (chlorinated bi-phenyl or mineral oil), the polymers acquire fluidity at 120°-150°C. Such a peculiar combination of properties is explained by the ladder structure of the macromolecules, which have a high degree of stiffness and therefore have melting points that are considerably above the decomposition temperatures.

The Si—O—M bond in polymetalloorganosiloxanes is more polar than the the Si—O—Si bond; as a result, these polymers are decomposed more readily than organopolysiloxanes by the action of water in the presence of acids.

Upon a decrease in the heteroelement content in the chain, the properties of polyheteroorganosiloxanes approach those of polyorganosiloxanes, but the effect of the heteroatom on the properties of the polymer is detectable even when only one heteroatom is present for every 100–200 silicon atoms. Thus, polyborodimethylsiloxane, with the monomer unit

with n = 100–200, is not vulcanized by peroxides under the usual conditions for polydimethylsiloxanes and retains the capability for self-adhesion. Polyborodimethylsiloxanes are capable of elastic deformation under conditions of short-term loading, with simultaneous retention of the plastic properties on prolonged loading. Introduction of titanium in conjunction with some other elements, particularly phosphorus, into the poly-dimethylsiloxane chains noticeably increases the thermal oxidative stability of the polymer. This phenomenon is observed in the presence of as little as one atom of titanium for every 100–300 atoms of silicon. The main methods for the preparation of polyheteroorganosiloxanes are the interchange decomposition reaction and the heterofunctional polycondensation (see above).

The following materials are of practical importance: (1) polyboroorganosiloxanes, which are used in the production of adhesives and self-sticking elastomers; (2) polyaluminoor-ganosiloxanes, which are heat-resistant materials, in precision casting of metals, as polymerization catalysts in the preparation of polyorganosiloxanes, and as film-forming materials in the production of varnishes yielding heat-resistant coatings; and (3) polytitanoorganosiloxanes, which are used as heat-resistant materials and sealants.

Polyorganosilazanes. The linear organosilazane polymers are viscous products that are readily soluble in organic solvents; the polycyclic polymers are solid, brittle, colorless materials with melting points between 150° and 320°C. Polyorganosilazanes are resistant to the action of water in neutral and weakly alkaline mediums but decompose in acid mediums; upon heating with alcohol, they undergo alcoholysis.

Polymers of low molecular weight are prepared by ammonol-ysis of alkylchlorosilanes with ammonia or primary amines, for example,

This reaction is accompanied by the formation of cyclic compounds. Polymers with molecular weights of up to 5,000 are prepared by ionic polymerization of organocyclosilazanes.

Polyorganosilazanes are used as waterproofing agents for various construction materials and fabrics, and also as hardeners for silicones, epoxy resins, and polymer compositions.

Polyorganoalkylenesilanes. Polyorganoalkylenesilanes have very great heat resistance. Since the polymer chain of polyorganoalkylenesilanes contains only Si—C and C—C bonds, they are distinguished by high hydrolytic stability and resistance to alkalies and acids.

High-molecular-weight polymers of this class are prepared by the polymerization of silacycloalkanes in the presence of orga-nometallic catalysts or by the reaction of hydrosilanes with divinylsilanes in the presence of H2PtCl6, organic peroxides, or tertiary amines. No practical use has been found for polyorganoalkylenesilanes because of the relatively high cost of the corresponding monomers.

Other polymers. Polyorganosilanes are distinguished by moderate chemical and thermal-oxidation resistance, since the Si—Si bond is readily split by the action of alkalies or oxidizing agents, yielding the silanol grouping Si—OH. Therefore, the practical usefulness of polyorganosilanes is questionable.

Silicones with organic main chains in the macromolecules are of lesser practical importance than the polyorganosiloxanes because of their considerably lower heat resistance.


Andrianov, K. A. Polimery s neorganicheskimi glavnymi tsepiami molekul. Moscow, 1962.
Bažant, V., V. Chvalovsky, and J. Rathousky. Silikony. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from Czech.)
Meals, R. N., and F. M. Lewis. Silikony. Moscow, 1964. (Translated from English.)
Andrianov, K. A. Teplostoikie kremniiorganicheskie dielektriki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
Borisov, S. N., M. G. Voronkov, and E. Ia. Lukevits. Kremneelementoor-ganicheskie soedineniia.[Leningrad] 1966.
Andrianov, K. A. Kremnii. Moscow, 1968. (Metody elementoorganiches-koi khimii.)


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