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How silicone surfactants work

Jan 14, 2014

Stabilizing the foam requires the use of a surface active agent, which orients itself on the cell walls in a precise manner and causes them to thin. Many organic surfactants have a surface tension that is higher than 32 mN/m, the surface tension of the polyol in the foam mixture. Consequently, they are not able to stabilize polyurethane foam.

Silicone polyethers have such low surface tension, they can potentially lower the surface tension of the foam another 10 mN/m! This makes them ideal surfactants for use not only in polyurethane foam but also in other applications where the creation of stable foams is desired.Silicone surfactants help stabilize foams two ways: by thinning the cell walls and by promoting the creation of large numbers of small vs. large bubbles.Although most silicone polymers are not water-soluble, there is one important class of silicones with water-soluble capabilities – surfactants (surface acting agents).Surfactants are used to create emulsions – stable blends of two “unblendable” materials, like oil and water.Surfactants have a “split personality.” One part of a surfactant – the “tail” – is hydrophobic (water-fearing), while the other part – the “head” – is hydrophilic (water-loving).

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