Akron, Ohio — Liquid silicone rubber has a big role to play in major megatrends facing the world, such as climate change, growing demand for energy, water management, health care and transportation, a Dow Corning Corp. executive said at the International Silicones Conference.
Megatrends are fundamental changes likely to impact the globe for the next 15 to 20 years or more, said Hans Peter Wolf, Dow Corning's manager of global research and development for silicone rubber.
Globalization is the most important business trend impacting the chemical industry, Wolf said at the conference in Akron on May 18. Rubber & Plastics News, a sister publication of Plastics News, coordinated the conference.
Wolf explained the “three P's” of LSR, saying the material combines properties, ease of processing and performance. LSR properties include good hardness, tensile strength, excellent compression set, resistance to ozone and ultraviolet light and low moisture absorption, he said.
Population growth contributes to many of the megatrends. In the next 20 years, energy demand will increase by 50 percent, he said. Urbanization is a big reason why. Wolf said cities and buildings use 40 percent of the world's energy.
“LSR really is a key component keeping our lights on and our equipment running,” he said. Dow Corning is working on LSRs for insulation of high-voltage electrical lines, reducing the amount of electricity lost over long-distance power transmission.
And molded silicones can be used for energy-efficient LED lights, as well as secondary optics and cables and connectors, he said.
Medical is an obvious — and large — market for LSRs.
In transportation, LSRs are good for under-hood applications in cars, he said. A new class of fluoro-LSR resists aggressive chemicals, solvents and oils. The big benefit: reduced emissions in cars and trucks.
Water demand is growing, and large regions of the world don't have good access to clean drinking water, Wolf said. Elastomer membranes (typically made from EPDM rubber or silicone) play a key role in drip irrigation systems for agriculture, he said.
“LSR is the material of choice to prevent losses and get higher harvests,” Wolf told conference attendees.