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What is Conductive Silicone?

By C.B. Fox
Updated May 17, 2024
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Conductive silicone is a material that is used to attach electrical components to a substrate. It is able to conduct heat well, which makes it a good material for use as a heat sink. Attaching electronic components with silicone has many advantages over traditional lead solder.

This material is a combination of organic and inorganic polymers. Silicon, along with other inorganic components, is bonded to organic materials in order to form silicone. The resulting product can take many different forms, including gels, rubbers and liquids, but conductive silicone is usually in the form of a paste.

As a paste, conductive silicone can be used to attach electronic components to a substrate. The paste is applied as a thick liquid and then cured by applying a moderate heat to it. The cured material remains strong yet flexible under normal operating conditions in an electronic device. Conductive silicone is not suitable for use in extreme cold or heat or in a vacuum.

A good conductor of heat, this material is particularly useful as a heat sink. By transferring heat from sensitive electrical components in a computer or other device, conductive silicone can protect them from damage. Conductive silicone draws heat away from components and discharges it harmlessly into the substrate material.

Conductive silicone is used in electronics because it has many advantages over traditional soldering. For one thing, the material can be cured at a temperature of only 302 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius). Many modern computer components are very sensitive to heat and the relatively low heat needed to connect components using conductive silicone can be applied without damaging the computer.

Conductive silicone also reduces the coefficient of thermal expansion mismatch. A more flexible material than lead solder, the expansion of silicone, when it heats up, does not disrupt the electrical connection between the component and the substrate. Another advantage of using conductive silicone is that it does not create electric flux, which must be cleaned from traditional solder.

In the past, lead or a lead and tin alloy was used to solder computer components together. With an increasing awareness of the environmental hazards lead creates, engineers have turned to alternative methods of attaching these components. Though other metals, such as cadmium, mercury or arsenic can be used, these metals are also toxic. An adhesive made of conductive silicone provides an alternative to traditional soldering that does not harm the environment.

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