The history of silicones
Navigate our interactive timeline, which presents an overview of main developments in the history of silicones.
Silicones before the Industrial Revolution
In the Stone Age, quartz and silica-based stones were fashioned into tools to aid survival. The ancient Romans started turning sand into glass and from thereon the technological evolution was unstoppable.
From sand to silicon
In the 19th century pioneering chemists discovered how to gain silicon from sand. Silicon is the basis for silicone. Read more about how silicones are manufactured here.
Jöns Jakob Berzelius
1823 - Jöns Jakob Berzelius isolates silicon in elemental form.
Henri Sainte-Claire Deville
1854 - Henri Sainte-Claire Deville synthesises pure silicon via electrolysis smelting process.
In the 20th century, commercial use of silicones began.
James Franklin Hyde
1930 - James Franklin Hyde carries out the first successful research leading to commercial production of silicones.
Frederic Stanley Kipping
1940 - Based on Hyde’s work, Frederic Stanley Kipping was the first to achieve extensive synthesis of silicone compounds and coined the name ‘silicones’. He is considered to be the ‘founding father’ of silicone science.
1940 - Richard Gustav Müller and Eugene George Rochow develop, independently of each other, a direct method for synthesizing silicones on an industrial scale.
1950 - A combination of history, engineering, accident and entrepreneurship produced one of the most successful toys of the 20th century – Silly Putty®. Image Credits: Crayola LLC
1960 - Spencer Silver invents pressure sensitive adhesives (PSA). They are designed to allow the surface on which they are coated to stick to other materials when a small amount of pressure is applied and to peel away cleanly without tearing. The most familiar example of a PSA application are the Post-it Notes, which were invented by Arthur Fry in 1973 and launched 7 years later in 1980.
1969 - The first imprint that Neil Armstrong left on lunar soil was made with a silicone rubber boot sole. In addition, new silicone materials used in the lunar and command modules were critical to the crew’s safety and support systems. Image Credit: NASA
1980's - Silicones played an integral role in advancements in computer technology, telecommunications and all other related fields that rely on the microchip. Without silicone to protect products from extreme temperatures and contamination, we would not have many of the technological and electronic innovations we take for granted today. Read more about silicones in technology.
Silicone innovation continues to follow the development of advanced technologies into the new millennium.
Photonics: using speed of light
2005: Photonics: using the speed of light. Recent discoveries in photonic science – where photons (light) are used for ultra-fast information delivery through internet and other digital communication applications – have accelerated the use of optical fibre for data transmission. Silicones have been crucial for these processes. Read more about silicones in technology.
Plasma reaching for the stars
2005 - Plasma is the matter of which the stars are made. Plasmas are clouds of highly energetic gas atoms and molecules moving at high speed. As these atoms and molecules collide they form a mixture that is capable of both breaking and making chemical bonds and it can be used to change the properties of any surface with which it comes into contact. The combination of plasma and silicones makes it possible to produce polymeric thin films with a thickness of less than one tenth of a human hair. These films make it possible to make faster microprocessors better solar energy devices and integrated circuits with enhanced reliability.
Silicones in Life Science
2005 - Linking the diverse disciplines of biotechnology and silicon science a world of opportunity for innovations in areas such as personal and health care, cleaning products, optical switches, fabric care and bio-based sensors