Silicones are indispensable
Protective equipment is not the only item in short supply in hospitals: several COVID-19 patients in intensive care suffering from respiratory distress and pneumonia must be given oxygen. As a result, hospitals need more ventilators than had been available to them prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to ventilators and respirator masks, demand is also high for infusion sets.
Silicones are indispensable components of all of these devices and systems. In respirators, for instance, the forehead pads and bodies of the masks are made of silicone rubber. Silicone seals, membranes and tubing are integral parts of ventilators. Invasive ventilation involves placing patients in medically induced comas, which requires infusions. The components of an infusion set – needle-free valves or seals – are made from silicone elastomers.
Injection molding represents an economic method for large-scale manufacturing of molded silicone parts, such as mask bodies, forehead pads and seals. Liquid silicone rubber, or LSR, is the right material for the job. Extrusion, on the other hand, is the method used for making tubing, transforming solid silicone rubber or HCR. In both of these methods, a chemical crosslinking reaction takes place in which the liquid oder solid silicone rubber is converted to a rubber-elastic material known as a silicone elastomer.
Silicones are particularly valuable in medical technology applications due to their purity, resistance to media, aging and radiation, and the ease with which they can be sterilized. Because parts made of silicone rubber are suitable for the sterilization methods commonly used in hospitals, they can be sterilized after application and reused multiple times – provided that medical standards permit multiple usage. This conserves resources and yields a sustainable reduction in the volume of waste accrued in hospital operations.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, WACKER has seen considerable demand for ELASTOSIL® and SILPURAN® silicone products developed especially for medical technology applications. They meet the biocompatibility requirements of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP Class VI) and of selected tests described in ISO 10993, making them an important material in ventilator and infusion technology.
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In order to avoid air pressure losses during ventilation, respirators need a tight fit on the face. Silicone rubber facilitates a soft and skin friendly padding of critical sections of the mask.
Tubes for ventilators are often made of silicone rubber. Silicone elastomers are elastic and flexible, resistant to media, aging and radiation. Components made of silicone rubber can be sterilized frequently and safely.
Silicones are particularly valuable in medical technology applications due to their biocompatibility and their resistance to media, aging, and the ease with which they can be sterilized. Tubes made of silicone elastomers (picture) are also frequently used in pharma processing equipment.