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What is Silicone Oil?

By T. L. Childree
Updated May 16, 2024
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Silicone oil is similar to a traditional hydrocarbon oil except that its molecular chain replaces carbon units with siloxane units. This oil is a nonflammable, nontoxic, tasteless, and odorless material. It is widely used by several industries including laboratories and medical facilities. Food grade versions of this oil are utilized by restaurants and breweries. Pharmaceutical companies also incorporate this oil in certain medicines.

Traditional hydrocarbon oil is composed of a sequence of carbon particles that typically bond with hydrogen. Silicone oil replaces the carbon and hydrogen units with siloxane units. These units are composed of silicone particles that have bonded together with oxygen. This oil has been frequently used for certain types of hydraulic applications and as an all-purpose lubricant. It is routinely employed as an internal lubricant for air and paintball guns.

Silicone oil also has unique properties that make it suitable for a wide variety of additional applications. This oil is well known for its thermal stability at extremely hot and cold temperatures. Unlike carbon-based oil, it is also a nonflammable liquid. This oil is odorless and tasteless and often used as an additive to other liquid materials. Its nontoxic properties allow it to be used for both food and pharmaceutical applications.

The exceptional thermal stability of silicone oil makes it ideal for laboratory use. It is frequently utilized in heating baths during lengthy experiments. Its nonflammable properties make it safe near the open flames of laboratory burners. Medical facilities make use of this sterile oil to replace vitreous fluid during eye surgeries. This oil is also a lubricant for syringes and other medical instruments.

Silicone oil also has unique anti-foaming properties and is often employed by the food service industry. Restaurants frequently add a small amount of it to deep fryers to prevent cooking oils from splattering and foaming. Many breweries also utilize this oil during their distilling, brewing, and fermenting processes. The addition of a small amount of this oil helps to prevent excessive foaming. Adding this oil to the mixture has no effect on the taste, smell, or safety of the final product.

The anti-foaming properties of this oil are also utilized for certain types of medications. Many pharmaceutical companies use silicone oil as the primary ingredient in anti-flatulent medicines. This oil has been proven to reduce excessive gas in the digestive tract when taken orally. Pharmaceutical grade silicone is always used for these medications.

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Discussion Comments

By Glasis — On Feb 19, 2014
Silicone oil is a major ingredient in the famous toy goo, silly putty. Silly putty is known for its interesting characteristics. If you roll the putty into a ball, you can bounce it just like a ball. It is technically a liquid and given enough time it will turn into a puddle. This type of material is called a non-Newtonian fluid.

Silly putty was created by accident when we were looking for a replacement for rubber. During World War II, Japan had taken over many rubber producing countries and so the United States was looking for an alternative.

Silly putty has many other uses. It can be used as a glue. This ability makes it useful to pick up dirt, lint or even ink. At one time you could lift the ink off a newspaper for a perfect copy of some words or a comic strip image.

Many rehab clinics use a form of putty for rehabbing hands. Forming and reforming putty is a way to build strength in injury weakened hands.

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