Silicone vs Polycarbonate: The Ultimate Comparison

Silicone and polycarbonate are two popular polymers used in the production of various products, such as phone cases. This silicone vs. polycarbonate comparison is for you to understand better what they are about and how they are used individually. By knowing their applications, you can conveniently distinguish between them. Without wasting further time, let’s quickly dive into the discussion.

What Is Silicone?

Silicone is a polymer that has to do with an inert, synthetic compound comprising iterative units of siloxane. It contains silicon, combining hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and other atoms. It is also known as polysiloxanes or polymerized siloxanes. 

Silicones are generally prepared by extracting silicon from silica and passing it through hydrocarbon at high temperatures. It passes through three stages of preparation: synthesis of chlorosilane, hydrolysis of chlorosilane, and condensation polymerization. They come in different forms, including rubber, resin, grease, caulk, and silicone oil. 

It is often used in electrical and thermal insulations, sealants, adhesives, lubricants, medicines, baby bottles, cooking utensils, etc. It also has varying consistencies, like rubber, gel, liquid, and hard plastic. However, the most common siloxane is silicone oil, also known as linear polydimethylsiloxane.

What Is Polycarbonate?

Polycarbonate, often known as polycarbonate plastic, is an amorphous, high-performance, tough, and transparent thermoplastic polymer. It is prepared by condensing polymerization of phosgene (COCI2) and bisphenol A (BPA; C15H16O2). It is widely used in industries for its recyclability and eco-friendly processing. 

This makes it suitable for use over glass, polyethylene (PE), and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). Polycarbonate is made of a unique set of physical and chemical properties. Its common uses include safety helmets, car headlamp lenses, bullet-proof glass, compact discs, roofing, glazing, baby feeding bottles, etc. 

It is also used as an engineering plastic thanks to its remarkable features, such as high dimensional stability, high impact strength, good electricity performance, etc. The most common methods of producing polycarbonate parts are injection molding, thermoforming, extrusion, and blow molding. 

Major Differences Between Silicone and Polycarbonate

Let’s take a look at the major difference between silicone and polycarbonate. By knowing their difference, you would be able to distinguish between silicone and polycarbonate products. 

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Composition

Silicones generally consist of silicon, oxygen, and an organic compound. The presence of this organic compound creates different variations of silicones and are the reasons silicones are temperature-resistant and flexible. Examples of these organic groups are vinyl, polythene, methyl, and so much more.

Polycarbonate, conversely, is made of organic functional groups connected by carbonate groups (–O–(C=O)–O–). These carbonate groups comprise oxygen, carbonate, and oxygen atoms. These carbonate units are the reasons behind polycarbonate’s strong and durable properties. 

It is formed with the reaction of bisphenol A—usually obtained by condensing phenol and acetone under acidic pressure—and carbonyl chloride in an interfacial process. In conclusion, polycarbonate and silicone are two polymers, but their chemical structures and properties differ.

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Flexibility and Elasticity

These are other areas to consider in the silicone vs. polycarbonate deliberation. As a result of the flexibility of the backbone chain, silicones make good elastomers—polymers with stretchy or elastic properties. 

In contrast to similar organic materials, which have a carbon-to-carbon backbone, the silicon-to-oxygen backbone of silicone makes it highly stable and flexible. They are flexible enough in that they are used to make end-use products with various properties in diverse temperatures, from high to low. 

This explains why silicones are preferred in making phone cases as they are more flexible and provide a better grip in a completely different debate of polycarbonate vs silicone phone cases.

On the other hand, polycarbonate does have a certain level of flexibility, making it different from other rigid materials. Although not as flexible as elastomers, polycarbonates are bendable considerably like silicone.

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Temperature Resistance

In drawing a comparison between the temperature resistance of silicone and polycarbonate, silicones have a better temperature resistance than polycarbonates. Due to their ability to stand against high temperatures, silicones are used most time in automotive industries. This is because this temperature makes silicone easier to handle and safer. 

The multi-purpose silicone sheeting can withstand a temperature of -60 to 230℃, in contrast with high-temperature silicone sheeting, which can withstand a temperature of 270 to 300℃. Similarly, it also has a low thermal conductivity. 

Impliedly, it can transfer heat slower than most materials, making it an excellent heat resistant. In essence, this means that silicones have good thermal stability, which means that no matter the wide range of temperatures they are exposed to, they can still maintain their structures and properties, which is one of their major advantages.

On the other hand, polycarbonate can maintain its properties in a temperature ranging from -20 to 140℃. The glass has a transition temperature of about 147°C. It softens at any temperature above this point and gradually flows when exposed to a temperature of up to 155℃. It also has a thermal resistance of 135℃.

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Durability and Impact Resistance

This particular factor between silicones and polycarbonates can not be compared. Compared to most plastics, silicones are more durable. However, they are still not more durable than polycarbonate.

Polycarbonates are very durable. They are more durable than other glass and plastic materials, which makes them seemingly indestructible on construction sites. Due to their high impact resistance ratings, these polycarbonates are often used to protect structures against extreme weather conditions such as heavy rains and winds. 

Often, they are preferred over silicones in many applications because of their durability and high impact resistance. Polycarbonate vs. silicone chocolate molds is an instance where the durability of silicone and polycarbonate can be considered and compared.

On this, silicone molds are quite flexible but not as durable as polycarbonates. Polycarbonate molds are more rigid, durable, and have high impact resistance making them suitable for repeated use. 

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Transparency

Another major difference between silicone and polycarbonate is transparency. Polycarbonate is known to be an extremely clear and translucent plastic. They are capable of transmitting about 90% of light, much like glass. They also have good optimal performance. 

Translucent polycarbonate is often used in conservatories and lean-on buildings where a thickness range of about 4mm to 35mm is required. Various ranges of color finishes are available. In contrast, silicones are clear enough to see through but are still cloudy compared to regular glass and polycarbonate. 

These clear silicones are known as optical silicone. When you compare silicone vs polycarbonate for glass cases, you will see a difference in transparency. Polycarbonates are often preferred to silicone because they provide better visibility, transparency, and clarity of the contents in glass cases. 

However, this visibility can not be compared to regular glass, which is generally more transparent than both silicone and polycarbonate.

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Chemical Resistance

Chemical resistance is another area worthy of note that differentiates silicone from polycarbonate. Silicones are known to be chemically unreactive. They are prone to attacks from a few common harmful inorganic chemicals such as hydrofluoric acids, highly concentrated sulphuric acids, and, in most cases, high-pressure steam when exposed for so long. 

Due to its low surface energy and non-reactive structure, they are always prone to attack by these materials. They are also tolerant of large non-polar oils but not the same with small nonpolar molecules. Polycarbonate, on the other hand, has higher chemical resistance than silicone. 

It is resistant to many chemicals like bases, alcohol, acids, and many other solvents. They also resist many organic and inorganic chemicals when exposed to room temperature. This is similar to comparing TPU vs silicone vs polycarbonate.

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Water Resistance

Unlike polycarbonates, silicones are water-resistant. What this means is that they are amazing water repellents. Water does not easily penetrate through silicones except when worn out and subverted. 

This silicone feature makes them perfect for indoor and outdoor usage, particularly around wet areas. An advantage of silicone’s water-resistant feature is that it aids in the prevention of microorganisms’ growth. They help prevent water from being stored on the material or surfaces, which is destructive to the growth of organisms. 

Silicone film coating on structures also helps retain color and prevents rusting and aging. This is because the energy bond of the Si-O absorbs the light energy that is likely to be left by water when it comes in contact with a colored surface. 

By absorbing the light energy, the color of the surface is maintained. Polycarbonates, on the other hand, are water-resistant but not comparable to silicones. They are also used in places where water and climate protection are required, an example is digital signage. This helps prevent wear and degradation to the place when used.

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Electrical Insulation

Electrical insulation is also considered an important differentiating factor between polycarbonate and silicone. The right insulation of any material is often defined by numerous factors, including its dielectric property, stability, flexibility, required life, mechanical strengths, etc. This is so even with polycarbonate and silicone. 

Due to its high heat resistance and dielectric strengths, polycarbonate is seen as a terrific electrical insulator. This composition lessens the risks of electric shocks and short circuits. This also has a way of preventing unwanted electrical leakages and ensures the adequate performance of the conductors.

Silicone is a soft insulator with a temperature between -80 to 250C. It has good electrical components. It is made up of a composite insulator for distributing and transmitting high-voltage. There are different types of insulators made of silicone available today, such as suspension, post, pin, and other insulators. 

The difference between the electrical insulation of silicone and polycarbonate is that while polycarbonate has good electrical insulation, silicone has even higher electrical insulation.

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Weight

Polycarbonate, though not a heavy material compared to other materials like glass, is often considered heavy when compared with silicone. Usually, they have high density, which is the reason for their heavier features. 

On the other hand, Silicone is regarded to be a very light material. This explains its preferential usage in applications that require lightness. This illustration is seen when comparing silicone vs. polycarbonate cases.

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in UV Resistance

UV resistance involves a material’s ability to resist ultraviolet (UV) light or sunlight radiation. These ultraviolet sunlights or lights often cause non-resistant materials to discolor or fade. This brings us to discussing the difference between silicone and polycarbonate UV resistance. 

Silicone coatings are known to have a high resistance to UV radiation, thanks to the tightly bonded molecules that make up the material.  The molecules that are found in silicone roof coatings are extremely photo-stable. This means they are highly resistant to change when exposed to light energy. 

They do not break or wear down due to exposure to UV radiation. Silicones are also known to be the most reflective roof coatings available. In contrast, polycarbonate is also UV resistant but is not compared to silicone. Polycarbonates as a material help to block all UV spectrums, which are ultraviolet A and B. 

The materials absorb this ultraviolet radiation and do not let it be transmitted. This absorption of harmful UV radiation often leads to the discoloration or yellowing of the materials with time. This, in turn, also leads to the polycarbonate either breaking or losing its property, unlike silicones. 

However, a way to bypass this discoloration is by applying a UV protection additive or layers. 

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Biocompatibility

Due to its inert nature and hydrophobicity, silicones are used in different biopharmaceutical processes, making them biocompatible. The biocompatibility of silicones results from the direct consequence of dimethylsiloxane’s molecular structures. 

This is the primary advantage of silicone since its purity acquired during synthesis is not comprised of additives. Silicones are biocompatible and bio-durable when in contact with host tissues. The hydrophobicity of silicones often results in hemocompatibility, which helps reduce the possibility of encrustation. 

Though their biocompatibility can not be compared to silicone, polycarbonates have good biocompatibility grades, making them an important part of medical devices and processes. They form the sturdy housing of the membranes, enabling doctors to monitor the medical processes. 

Because these polycarbonates can withstand different types of sterilization, they can be re-used and still maintain their high performance.

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Difference in Cost

This is another difference between silicone and polycarbonate. Generally, silicones are more expensive than polycarbonate. This is largely due to the rigorous production process of silicone products and the cost of gathering the raw materials. 

In addition, silicone has special features that make it highly desired by various industries and manufacturers, and this makes it very expensive. On the other hand, Polycarbonate is considerably cheap. They are rampantly used and easily available, which makes them affordable. 

In showing the difference between the cost of silicone and polycarbonate, we will compare the silicone vs. polycarbonate case and silicone vs. polycarbonate chocolate molds in these products. The materials for manufacturing these silicone products are way more pricey than those for polycarbonate products. 

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Ease of Processing

This is another area differentiating silicone and polycarbonate. This is a significant characteristic. The difference here is that there is complexity and a longer production process for silicone than polycarbonate. 

There are 4 steps of production of silicone from raw materials to finished products. It involves:

  • Mixing: Here, the gathered raw silicone materials are mixed in large quantities to make the product’s base materials after this comes the mixing step.
  • Molding: At this stage, the mixed materials are poured into different shapes of molds depending on the desired shape.
  • Curing: After the molding stage comes to the curing stage. This stage involves hardening the molded products by direct heat or chemical exposure. The step takes some minutes or can last for hours, depending on the complexity or size of the products. 
  • Finishing: Once the molded materials have been hardened, they are removed from their molds. The excess materials are trimmed, after which they undergo the final stage of finishing by applying coatings and polishing for final use. 

In contrast, the polycarbonate production process is less demanding than silicone. They are produced through one or two processes: the melt transesterification and interfacial processes.

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Recyclability

The recycling process of these two materials differs. It is often more difficult than that of polycarbonate. Recycling silicone can be difficult and often results in downcycling. This downcycling means that when silicone is recycled, it gradually degrades or loses its property with each subsequent use. 

However, though these silicones are recyclable, they can not be done just anywhere. There are recycling facilities that do this process specially. Additionally, not all silicone products are recyclable. Polycarbonate, conversely, is completely recyclable. Since it is made with natural resources, there are the perfect yields for recycling industries. 

The recycling process involved in polycarbonate involves sorting, shredding, washing, and turning to graduates to be used by manufacturers. Additionally, when recycling polycarbonates, they are not susceptible to downcycling.

Silicone Vs. Polycarbonate: Differences in Applications

In this section, let’s look at the different applications or uses of silicone and polycarbonate. Their unique blend of properties makes their usage and applications different. Let’s begin with the applications of polycarbonates.

Polycarbonate Applications

Due to factors such as durability, impact resistance, chemical resistance, water resistance, etc., polycarbonates are built and designed for various applications and usages, as pointed out in an earlier section of the article. Now, we will discuss further on this polycarbonate application by taking a look at some of its distinctive and standard applications below:

    • Construction: A lot of building and construction materials are made using polycarbonate. This is because they possess high impact strengths, they are resistant to weather impacts, UltraViolet radiation, and transparency. Examples of such materials are facades, skylights, security windows, etc.
    • Consumer Products: Polycarbonates are also fit for manufacturing many consumer products. This is because they have low internal stress, double refraction, and increased size accuracy. Instances of such consumer products are safety goggles, face shields, protective glasses, shatterproof sunglasses, water bottles, lenses, etc.
  • Appliance: Polycarbonates are used to produce various appliances, including air conditioners, refrigerators, mixers, washing machines, hair dryers, coffee machines, etc. These appliances are found mostly in our homes and workplaces, which we use daily.
  • Medical: Polycarbonates make up various medical applications. For example, they are used in making drug delivery systems, blood reservoirs, surgical instruments, blood filters, etc. This is attributable to their impeccable resistance to heat, toughness, dimensional stability, and clarity. 

Silicone Applications

Like polycarbonate, silicones are used in a variety of applications. Some of these are:

  • Bathrooms and kitchens: Silicones are sealants for sealing shower edges, kitchen sinks, bathtubs, etc. This helps to prevent damage caused by dampness.
  • Caulking windows and Doors: Most silicones have been structured to work well with different materials for construction, like wood, vinyl, and metals. This makes them suitable for use as a sealant for doors and windows.
  • Electronic Coating: They are also a strong coating for electronics and electrical appliances due to their low thermal conductivity.
  • Diving Goggle: Silicones are also used to produce diving masks and goggles. This is because they can seal out water. 

Other applications of silicones include ratings for pans, paints, and vanished, manufacture of waterproofing textiles, silicone gaskets, fuel tanks, hydraulic switches protection, etc. 

On the application of silicon and polycarbonate, another area to consider is the comparison of silicon micro optics vs polycarbonates. Silicon micro-optics are optical elements for infrared spectral range, such as microscopes, lenses, and sensors. This is not so with polycarbonate.

Conclusion

The unique properties of silicon and polycarbonates make them outstanding materials for different applications. They are widely used by manufacturers, product designers, and engineers. Having looked at their differences, identifying them shouldn’t be a problem for you. 

Depending on the proposed use, they can fit whatever purpose they are designed for. Having said that, if you are lost on where to get quality silicon products, legenday is your number one silicone product manufacturer. Check out some of our products and make your choice!

 

More resources:

Silicone Vs. Acrylic Roof Coating – Source: LEGENDAY

How easily does Silicone Stick to Different Surfaces? – Source: LEGENDAY

What is FDA Approved Food Grade Silicone Made of? – Source: LEGENDAY

TPU vs Silicone – Source: LEGENDAY

EPDM vs. Silicone – Source: LEGENDAY

Epoxy vs. Silicone – Source: LEGENDAY

Latex vs Silicone – Source: LEGENDAY

Silicone vs. Acrylic – Source: LEGENDAY

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