In its pure form, sodium silicate, which is used to make silica fibers, is a white powder.
Silica fiber is a long, thin yarn made from sodium silicate. It has many aerospace, electrical and automotive applications due to its high heat resistance. These wires are also used as optical fibers for long-distance telecommunications, fiber optic sensors and medical instruments.
The thread or cord is actually made of sodium silicate, also known as a water glass. In its pure form, it appears as a white powder. It is very stable and through a process of melting and brushing it is formed into a series of fine threads or fibers.
Silica fiber blankets were used on space shuttles as part of the thermal protection system.
Silica fiber provides heat protection and is commonly used in compensators and packaging. Compensators refer to mechanisms that counterbalance movement, such as muzzle brakes on firearms and piston pump pressure control. The silica product is also a substitute for asbestos packaging. The yarns do not react with most mineral and organic acids at high temperatures and are highly resistant to thermal shock.
Endoscopes are made from bundles of silica fibers.
The material is woven from silica fiber or the wires are embedded in other materials, typically used as insulation. The silica material is then used in electrical, automotive and aerospace applications. Shielding made from this material can withstand temperatures up to 1832 degrees Fahrenheit (1000 C) for very long periods or even higher temperatures of 3092 F (1700 C) for short periods of time.
Respiratory masks can prevent people from inhaling silica fiber particles that cause health problems.
The heat protection is so effective that silica fiber blankets are used in space shuttles as part of the thermal protection system. Threads are part of advanced flexible reusable surface insulation. The use of silica fibers reduces the weight of the insulation and can handle the heat load encountered on re-entry.
Optical filaments are also made from silica fibers. The optical filament transmits light and is very thin, almost as wide as a single human hair. These filaments form the basis of optical fiber, which allows data transmission at higher data rates and over very long distances. These items are often used in telecommunications.
Other fiber optic applications include imaging for surgical procedures and as sensors. One surgical application is an endoscope. This tool is made up of bundles of silica fibers and is used to inspect the inside of the body.
Sodium silicate – used to create silica fiber – is used in laundry detergents.
The cord can be used to connect a sensor to a measurement system. In some cases, the silica fiber is the sensor. No electrical energy is needed to operate sensors made of this material. Due to its small size, it can fit in hard-to-reach or dangerous places for humans.