Photo description: From a load of silicon, there are varieties of silicones products being produced at Bluestar Silicones (lower photos from bluestarsilicones.com).
This blog post was written by Benedicte Eikeland Nilssen, second year trainee just finished her third and last trainee period in Elkem.
Silicon Materials, Foundry Products, Carbon, and Silicones (Bluestar Silicones) are all business areas in Elkem. The silicones become a complete new business area after Bluestar Silicones International was merged with Elkem in June 2015. During that time I was in my second Elkem trainee period, working with silicon materials. Among the topics I studied was the silicon quality effect on the behavior in the first process step in the silicone production. This merge of course got my attention, and I ended up spending my last trainee period working in France.
Bluestar Silicones has a production including siloxanes (intermediate products for further polymerisation, and chemical and physical processing, before ending up as a silicone) and a range of various silicones supplying very many different markets. There are release coatings, rubber, textile coating, healthcare, personal care, specialty fluids, mold making, construction, and sealing and bonding. In total, there are more than 1000 products! For airbag-coating silicones, Bluestar Silicones has been developing it for 20 years! Did you know that more than half of the airbags in Europe are coated with products produced at Bluestar Silicones? It is almost magical.
Bluestar Silicones has been developing airbag-coatings for 20 year, and more than half of the airbags in Europe are coated with products produced at Bluestar Silicones (photo from Bluestar Silicones).
Just think about it, from the load of silicon arriving the plant there are a world of end applications and products where the silicones produced are used. Sure, there are several process steps in between me standing with the silicon in my hand and before you use the silicones baking mold for making bread in the oven where the front glass is sealed using silicones, but I find it so fascinating. Being able to see that my work contribute to make these products I use almost every day, or get to discover application areas where silicones actually are in use, was such a great motivation. Like, did you also know that Bluestar Silicones has been a long time partner with the Musée Miniature et Cinéma in Lyon? The silicones are used to mold prototypes and fix equipment and costumes used in movies!
A selection of some of the masks you can find in the Musée Miniature et Cinéma in Lyon.
My work at Bluestar Silicones was related to the very first process steps. Meaning that we now have to shift the focus from the very end application to the process step involving the solid silicon. I was mainly joining the technical assistance in the improvement work related to the operation of the direct synthesis or also commonly named Müller-Rochow process. A process where the solid silicon reacts with methyl chloride gas forming various gaseous products. I also were involved in some research activities also with focus on studying the behavior of silicon particles. Now and then, I joined in for larger gatherings, meetings, and audits, like a Bluestar Silicones convention meeting. Which was very good arena to practice the French cheek kissing, making acquaintances, and joining my local supervisor for a poster presentation to show the work being done in the upstream activities.
At the convention meeting, me and my local supervisor :) :).
Even though it was a six-month stay only, I am pleased to have experienced so much, met so many people, and got this insight to the world of silicones!