As part of our week-long series about silicones within the aviation industry, Dominic Testo, a member of our Advisory Board, answers our questions.
Q: What are the main applications of silicones in the aviation industry and why are they important?
A: There are so many applications for silicone in aviation, that there is almost too many to name but here are three important ones:
i. Engine Seals… Companies like GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls Royce heavily rely on silicone seals to make their engines work. They are used as platform seals holding the fan blades on both ends acting as seals and pads. These are those spiral-looking blades you see in front of the engine when looking at the plane from the nose.
Silicone is used in several other applications in engines like airflow tubes, covers, and fuel line hosing and connections. The materials can be relied on at both high and low temperatures making them ideal. Engines can see extremely cold temps at high altitudes and 1 hour later, be on the ground in the Middle East where the runway may be 120°F.
The material is able to keep its elastomeric properties over this change.
ii. Door Seals…When you walk on the plane do you ever see that grey round-looking seal or flap around the door?
That silicone was molded with a reinforced Dacron fabric inside - keeping the door sealed from weather and keeping the cabin pressurized.
iii. Silicone Sponge and Foams... Used in several places for anti-vibration and noise control. So many moving parts at high speeds need to be secure and quiet.
These materials are found all over certain aircraft to stop the vibration of plastics and metals.Q: Are there any industry advancements that you're looking forward to?
A: There is a big push for electric-powered and hybrid-powered aircraft. It's by no means an easy task but, it's certainly going to be exciting R&D. I believe this opens up a lot of opportunities for new applications within silicone - especially in the Thermal, EMI, and Specialty Products sectors.
In many situations, these products are made by smaller or medium-sized businesses, giving them the chance to specify their products with the likes of Boeing, GE, Pratt & Whitney, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Bombardier, Gulfstream, and many other possible partnerships.